Upland Bird Forecast - Clearwater Region

Clearwater Region

2019 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. The 2018-19 winter was fairly mild to start, but winter conditions returned late with cold temperatures and heavy snow across the Clearwater region. The impacts of these conditions on upland game bird survival are largely unknown, although no abnormally high mortality rates were detected. During the spring 2019 nesting and early brood rearing period, weather conditions were cool and abnormally wet through spring into summer. Cool and wet weather can provide for excellent summer brood-rearing habitat, but can also result in chick mortality, depending on the timing and intensity of precipitation events. Overall, population trends were mixed, depending on the species.

Pheasant

  • Trend from last year (2018): Up
  • 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): Down
  • The 24 pheasants observed in 2019 represent an 85% increase from the 13 birds tallied in 2018, however it is a 37% decrease from the previous 10-year average of 38.1 birds. The 24 birds observed this year represent just 12% of the historical high count of 199 pheasants tallied on these routes (in 2005). The 24 pheasants observed on the 240 miles of routes surveyed in 2019 equates to 0.10 pheasants observed per mile surveyed. Three broods were encountered this year. An average of 4.4 broods was tallied on these routes over the past 10 years. The average size of broods observed this year was 5 chicks.

Chukar

  • Trend from last year (2018): Up
  • 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): 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, has 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 (Hun)

  • Trend from last year (2018): Up
  • 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): Down
  • The number of gray partridge observed this year was up slightly from last year’s total and down from the long-term average. A total of 61 gray partridge were counted in 2019 (0.25 gray partridge per mile surveyed). This figure represents a 3% increase from the 59 birds tallied in 2018 and is 40% lower than the previous 10-year average of 102.5. Over the past 10 years, the number of gray partridge tallied on these routes has varied from 42 (in 2008) to 176 (in 2015).

California Quail

  • Trend from last year (2018): Down
  • 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): Down
  • The number of quail counted this year was lower than last year’s total. A total of 85 birds were counted in 2019, or a 42% decrease from the 146 counted in 2018. This year’s tally is also 40% lower than the previous 10-year average of 161.7 and is 78% lower than historical high count of 385 tallied in 2003. The 85 quail tallied on these routes in 2019 translates to 0.35 birds per mile surveyed.

Mourning Dove

  • Trend from last year (2018): Down
  • 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): Down
  • A total of 261 mourning doves were counted on regional routes in 2019 (1.09 doves observed per mile surveyed). This total represents a 41% decrease from the 444 tallied in 2018, and is 38% lower than the previous 10-year average of 417.7.

Forest Grouse (Dusky, Ruffed, Spruce)

  • Trend from last year (2018): No Data
  • 10-Year Trend (2010-2019): 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 likely below the long-term average in 2019.