2016 Upland Game Bird Population Trends – Clearwater Region

2016 Conditions – Twelve 20-mile upland game brood routes are surveyed annually from mid to late August across the Clearwater Region to index game bird population trends and productivity. These data provide an index of relative abundance and are used to monitor annual changes and long-term trends in regional populations. Due to low detection rates, however, these data are imprecise and should be interpreted cautiously. During 2016, weather conditions were abnormally cool and wet during the spring and early summer nesting and brood rearing period. There were several significant precipitation events scattered throughout the month of June and one in early July which were accompanied by abnormally cool temperatures. These events overlapped the peak nesting periods for most of our regional upland game bird species. Cool and wet weather can provide for excellent summer brood rearing habitat, but can also result in chick mortality, depending on timing of events. Sizes of game bird chicks observed in late August 2016 were highly variable. This variation in size would indicate that some successful nesting occurred during the normal nesting period and that some of this year’s production is the result of later re-nesting attempts. Overall, population trends were mixed, depending on the species.

Upland Game Bird Trend from last year
(2015)
10-Year Trend
(2006-2015)
Comments
Pheasant Down Up The 47 pheasants observed in 2016 represent a 59% decline from the 115 birds tallied in 2015, but is still 23% higher than the previous 10-year average of 38 birds. It should be noted that the 115 pheasants counted in 2015 was the highest number counted in the past 10 years. The 47 birds observed in 2016 represent just 24% of the historical high count of 199 tallied in 2005. The 47 pheasants observed on the 240 miles of routes surveyed in 2015 equates to 0.2 pheasants observed per mile surveyed. Four broods were encountered this year. An average of 4.9 broods was tallied on these routes over the past 10 years, including a high of 32 in 2005. The average size of broods observed this year was 5.5 chicks.
Chukar Stable Up Chukar helicopter trend surveys are no longer conducted by IDFG. The Clearwater Region has experimented with some ground-based survey methodologies in recent years, but to-date, have not identified a reliable trend index. Chukar productivity and populations have appeared to be trending upward in recent years. Observations and reports from field staff and the public this year (although somewhat tentative due to relatively small sample sizes, i.e., numbers of reports), appear to indicate very good chukar nesting success and chick survival with observations of many birds, including numerous large broods.
Gray Partridge Down Up The number of gray partridge observed this year was down from last year’s total but is still above the long-term average. A total of 130 gray partridge were counted in 2016 (0.54 gray partridge per mile surveyed). This figure is represents a 26% decline from the 176 birds tallied in 2015 but is still 36% above the previous 10-year average of 96. It should be noted that the 176 gray partridge counted in 2015 was the third highest count recorded in the past 25 years.
California Quail Up Down The number of quail counted this year was up slightly compared to last year’s total. A total of 143 birds were counted in 2016 (+ 21% and 0.58 birds per mile surveyed) compared to the 118 counted last year. This total is 18% lower than the previous 10-year average of 174 and is 63% lower than high count of 385 tallied in 2003.
Mourning Dove Stable Stable A total of 421 mourning doves were counted on regional routes in 2016 (1.51 doves observed per mile surveyed). This total represents a 7% decrease from the 451 tallied in 2015, and is 2% higher than the previous 10-year average of 412.
Forest Grouse (Dusky, Ruffed, Spruce) No Data No Data Forest grouse are not surveyed in the Clearwater Region. Incidental observations and reports from field staff and sportsmen indicate that forest grouse production was near the long-term average in 2016. However, most reports indicated that there appeared to be fewer birds (especially broods) observed this summer than last.