Parasitism of greater prairie-chicken nests by ring-necked pheasants

Ronald L. Westemeier, John E. Buhnerkempe, William R. Edwards, Jeffrey D. Brawn, Scott A. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We studied nest parasitism of greater prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus) by ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) as a possible contributing factor in the decline of an isolated population of prairie-chickens in Jasper County, Illinois. Both species nested in small, scattered grasslands maintained on prairie-chicken sanctuaries. Incidence of parasitic laying by pheasant hens in prairie-chicken nests increased from 2 to 43% between 1970 and 1983 and remained high through 1987. Nest success (≤1 host-egg hatching) did not differ (P = 0.33) between 60 unmanaged parasitized nests (43%) and 602 unparasitized nests (51%). However, success of 14 parasitized prairie-chicken nests managed by removal of pheasant eggs (86%) was greater (P = 0.02) than for 24 unmanaged parasitized nests (46%) during 1983 and 1985-87. Hatchability of fertile prairie-chicken eggs was less (P < 0.01) in parasitized nests (77%, conservatively) than in unparasitized nests (94%), because of earlier hatching of pheasant eggs, increased embryo morality of prairie-chickens, or increased nest abandonment. Large clutches of prairie-chicken eggs typical of early nests were more likely (P < 0.001) parasitized than small clutches laid later. Factors correlated with rate of nest parasitism included numbers of pheasant cocks (P = 0.01) and numbers of pheasant nests (P < 0.001) found each year. Although pheasant control apparently eliminated nest parasitism during 1988-94, prairie-chicken numbers continued to decline. Without management intervention to control pheasants on sanctuaries, the survival of this isolated, remnant flock of prairie-chickens may be in greater jeopardy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)854-863
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1998


  • Exotics
  • Greater prairie-chicken
  • Illinois
  • Nest parasitism
  • Phasianus colchicus
  • Reproduction
  • Ringnecked pheasant
  • Tympanuchus cupido

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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