prairie grouse

Our native prairie game birds include sharp tailed grouse and greater prairie chicken (pictured above). South Dakota is fortunate to have some of the strongest populations of prairie grouse on the continent. This is due in large part to large areas of unplowed native grasslands still present on our landscape along with vast tracts of CRP. Prairie grouse are highly dependent on native grasslands for nesting, feeding, and displaying. Unlike pheasants, which can tolerate quite a lot of edge habitat and fragmentation, prairie grouse prefer large landscapes dominated by grasslands.

Grazing management can be the key to successful prairie grouse management. Managed grazing, in particular rest rotational grazing systems allow suitable residual nesting and brooding cover on the landscape. Proper riparian pasture management can also be crucial for prairie grouse. Fencing off creek bottoms and other riparian areas can provide needed cover and food in the form of native shrubs such as chokecherry, buffalo berry, and American plum. Shrub clumps of native shrubs can be planted adjacent to draws and creek bottoms if woody regeneration is unlikely. As with all ground nesting birds converting croplands to DNC and warm season native grasses will significantly increase grouse nesting cover on your property.

Pasture improvement programs such as USDA's marginal pasture CCRP program, USDA's EQIP program, SD GFP private lands program, and the USFWS partners for fish and wildlife program all have tools that private landowners can use to improve prairie grouse habitat on their property.