Current monitoring efforts for greater prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus) populations indicate that populations are declining across their range. Monitoring the population status of greater prairie-chickens is based on traditional lek surveys (TLS) that provide an index without considering detectability. Estimators, such as immigration-emigration joint maximum-likelihood estimator from a hypergeometric distribution (IEJHE), can account for detectability and provide reliable population estimates based on resightings. We evaluated the use of mark-resight methods using radiotelemetry to estimate population size and density of greater prairie-chickens on 2 sites at a tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills of Kansas, USA. We used average distances traveled from lek of capture to estimate density. Population estimates and confidence intervals at the 2 sites were 54 (CI 50-59) on 52.9 km 2 and 87 (CI 82-94) on 73.6 km2. The TLS performed at the same sites resulted in population ranges of 7-34 and 36-63 and always produced a lower population index than the mark-resight population estimate with a larger range. Mark-resight simulations with varying male:female ratios of marks indicated that this ratio was important in designing a population study on prairie-chickens. Confidence intervals for estimates when no marks were placed on females at the 2 sites (CI 46-50, 76-84) did not overlap confidence intervals when 40% of marks were placed on females (CI 54-64, 91-109). Population estimates derived using this mark-resight technique were apparently more accurate than traditional methods and would be more effective in detecting changes in prairie-chicken populations. Our technique could improve prairie-chicken management by providing wildlife biologists and land managers with a tool to estimate the population size and trends of lekking bird species, such as greater prairie-chickens.
Additional publication details
Estimating numbers of greater prairie-chickens using mark-resight techniques