Ruffed grouse natality, chick survival, and brood micro-habitat selection in the southern Appalachians
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Ruffed grouse chick survival estimates were calculated from data collected in the first 2 years of a long term ACGRP study as well as data collected separate from ACGRP protocol. First-week chick survival estimates ranged from 0.18 to 0.32 in 1997 and 0.45 to 0.48 in 1998. Late brood season survivorship values (0.11-0.13 at week 5, 0.07 at week 10) were considerably lower in the southern Appalachians than those reported from more northern portions of ruffed grouse range. Additionally, the mean number of chicks per brood in July was lower in the southern Appalachians than that reported in the Great Lakes region during July and August. Recommendations are given on how ACGRP chick count data collection may be improved in upcoming years.
I compared micro-habitat characteristics at known brood locations with randomly selected locations to determine which characteristics are selected by ruffed grouse hens and broods in the southern Appalachians. In the first half of the brood season (weeks 1-6) hens and broods selected sites with tall, complete, vegetative ground cover. Additionally, broods selected forested sites with a well-developed canopy, rather than areas affected by large canopy gaps or openings. Higher ground cover at brood sites may have been due to a lack of midstory structure. The abundance of arthropods, fruit, and forage at brood flush sites was higher during the first few weeks of the brood season; this was possibly due to flush sites being located in open, mid-age or mature forest. Several authors have speculated that as the chicks' diet shifts from primarily arthropods to fruit and forage at approximately 3 weeks of age, the habitat selected by hens and their broods may change to accommodate this dietary shift. In my study, a change in habitat selection did not occur between weeks 3 and 4 as expected but after week 6 and may indicate the chicks' dietary shift occurs later than some have predicted.
- Masters Theses