Investigation of Thermal Habitat Selection by Greater Prairie-Chickens
Torre Hovick
Brady Allred
Dwayne Elmore
Dave Dahlgren
Sam Fuhlendorf
Dave Engle
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Greater Prairie-Chicken (GRPC) populations have declined throughout the Flint Hills region over the past three decades. These declines correspond with large scale shifts in management that have resulted in a homogenization of the landscape. It is likely that this shift in management has influenced GRPC nest and brood survival directly through reduced cover, but indirect factors such as the thermal environment are unknown. Therefore, we are investigating thermal habitat selection in GRPC in the southern Flint Hills for nesting, brooding, and summer loafing sites. These data will be compared to temperature models of the landscape that we have created to evaluate if there are any relationships between temperature, vegetation cover, and GRPC habitat use. Landscape models were created with independent data based on temperature, slope, aspect, and vegetation cover relationships. Our preliminary findings indicate that GRPC select nesting areas that are cooler than the surrounding microhabitat, likely as a result of shading from overhead vegetation. Additionally, we found that brood sites and summer loafing sites are typically in areas that have been burned within the last year and that mid-day loafing sites are strongly associated with forb patches. Whether these habitat associations are related to temperature, is not yet known. Yet, this work supports the need for maintaining heterogeneity within grasslands both in terms of structure and composition regardless of the mechanisms which may be related to habitat selection by GRPC.

Additional Information
Torre Hovick1, Brady Allred1, Dwayne Elmore1, Dave Dahlgren2, Sam Fuhlendorf1, Dave Engle1 --- 1Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA, 2Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, Hayes, KS, USA