Minnesota Pheasants: Late Spring Increases Importance of Delayed Roadside Mowing

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This hen pheasant and nest were destroyed by early roadside mowing. Photo courtesy the Minnesota DNR

While the third week in June is typically the peak of the pheasant hatch, that may not be the case in Minnesota this year due to a cool, wet spring. As pheasant nesting has been impacted, the delayed mowing of roadsides will be even more important in this wacky weather year.
 
“The late spring will likely impact pheasant nesting in one of two ways,” said Nicole Davros, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources research scientist and pheasant specialist. “Some hens may have delayed nest initiation due to cooler temps and snow cover at the start of the nesting season. Other hens that did start nesting may have abandoned their first attempt due to the weather.”

Davros says this year there will probably be a lot of pheasants still nesting in July, noting it takes six weeks for a hen pheasant to lay eggs and have them hatch. Chicks need to be two to three weeks old to escape mowers or other farm equipment. By delaying roadside disturbances until August 1, most nests can hatch successfully.
 
If a nest succumbs to a mower before the eggs hatch, and provided the hen escapes, she will re-nest, doing so, in fact, until successfully hatching a clutch. If chicks perish in a ditch cutting, the hen will not re-nest, as pheasant hens will only hatch one brood per year.
 
Roadsides provide more than 500,000 acres of nesting area in the pheasant range of southern and western Minnesota.  In some areas, up to 40 percent of pheasants in the fall population can be produced in roadsides. Unfortunately, thousands of pheasant nests and nest sites are destroyed annually in Minnesota and nationwide because of ditch mowing, haying, spraying and ATV operation during late spring and summer. That’s why Pheasants Forever encourages delaying all these roadside disturbances all across pheasant country until after August 1.
 
Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.