Predicting greater prairie-chicken nest success from vegetation and landscape characteristics

Gwen Mckee, Mark R. Ryan, Larry M. Mechlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To aid management of prairie habitat for nesting greater-prairie chickens (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus), we tested whether vegetation and landscape variables could be used to predict prairie-chicken nest success. We monitored 60 nests during the 1990-92 breeding seasons in southwestern Missouri. Nest success ranged from 28 to 40% over 3 years (x̄ = 35%). We identified 2 2-variable models (logistic regression) incorporating litter (horizontal, residual) and woody cover (P < 0.001) or forb and grass cover (P < 0.001) at nests as the best predictors of nest success. Litter cover at the nest was the best single predictor of nest success (P = 0.001). Models incorporating litter cover and distance of nests to edge or tree also predicted nest success (both Ps = 0.004). However, distance of nests to edge or tree alone or in combination did not predict nest success (all Ps > 0.5). Nest sites with litter cover >25% had a failure rate twice that of nests with <25% litter cover (P = 0.002). Nest success declined substantially when woody cover >5% was present at nests (P = 0.01), when forb cover was ≤5% (P = 0.009), or when grass cover was <25% (P = 0.02). We suggest that managers can use litter accumulation of >25% as a cue to initiate management action such as burning, grazing, or haying.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-321
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Fire
  • Greater prairie-chicken
  • Landscape
  • Missouri
  • Nest success
  • Prairie management
  • Vegetation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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