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Hatch!

June 17, 2018 by

The recently captured trail cam photo sequence shows the pheasant hatch drama unfold...

On June 15th I was doing field work and spotted the first pheasant chick of the season.  It was newly hatched.  A day later I flushed so quail sized birds that were good flyers.  Hatched maybe a few weeks ago.

Three or so weeks ago I spooked a bird off a nest doing some field work (around June 1).  A week later I determined to setup a trail camera on the nest and see what I could capture.  On June 6th I started capturing pictures but I did not access the camera until today when I could tell the hen was off the nest and at a close distance I could tell the eggs were disrupted.  I personally cannot determine if the hatch was successful or the nest was destroyed.  The photos tell a dramatic story in what fair chase pheasants go through to raise a brood:

Photo Gallery of 2018 South Dakota Pheasant Nesting by UGUIDE

June 6 - We observe a coyote pass within a few feet of the sitting hen.  A few minutes later we see the coyote still in the area but either the hen remained undetected or the coyote was uninterested.

June 7 - We see a pattern developing where the hen leaves the nest around 6pm in the afternoon each day.  I am told the hens leave the nest twice a day but we could not see this pattern in the photos.

June 12 - We see a whitetail buck pass by and can tell antler development has begun.  The hen is unaffected. Later at about 10:39 we see the fur of an animal at the right side of the trail camera but cannot make out the species.

June 13 - Again we see the hen leaving the nest in early evening and the nest/eggs are intact.

June 14 - We see another picture around 5:30pm but no hen on nest or in frame but the nest is intact.

June 15 - At 5:30am we see what appears to be a racoon (by the ring on tail) pass by the sitting hen within a few feet.  I personally showed guests the sitting hen to visitors with binoculars on the afternoon of the 14th and again on the afternoon of the 15th.

June 16 - I had missed a patch of area with the sprayer and went back to that area around 11:30am to spray the small patch which happen to be within eye shot of the nesting hen.  I observed the hen sitting and I was able to get another photo.

June 17 - At 1:41am what appears to look like a racoon passes within feet of the nest.  At this time, if you look closely it appears that the eggs and nest are not intact and the hen is not on the nest.

June 17 - At 12:38pm we see a picture of a hen near the disturbed nest.  Is this the sitting hen or some other hen?

June 17 - 5:32pm, I wanted to get closeup photos of the sitting hen through a spotting scope but on closer inspection the hen had appeared to have left the scene and the nest was not intact.  It was then I pulled trail cam photos.

So was the nest successful or was it destroyed by a predator?  Here are the questions and observations I have:

If the nest was a success, how do you explain the hen photo by the disturbed nest on June 17?

If the nest was destroyed why are there no photos of the predator on the nest doing so?

A racoon and coyote pass by the nest within a couple feet and evidence shows no impact to the nest or hen.

Could all the chicks have hatched out between 1pm on the 16th (my last siting of hen on nest) and 1:40am on the 17th (shows photo of racoon and nest disturbed)?

The eggs appear to have the peck or pimp marks on the shells from the chicks breaking the shell from the inside.  Is this valid proof of a successful nest?

The other thing was can observe is the laying hen either faces northeast or southwest.  In other words it rotates the direction it faces 180 degrees periodically.  We can also say that in two cases supposed predators pass within close proximity to the nest with no impact.  This could prove that investing in better nesting habitat is better than spending time harvesting supposed predators.  I know I do not have the time or resources to do both.

6/19/2018 - Post publish revision:  We believe the nest was successful as all the eggs have pip marks from the chicks chiseling out of their shells.  If the nest was destroyed the eggs would have shown more damage and the trail cam would have picked up some of the action.  Just today was out doing habitat work and came across a different hen with a freshly hatch brood of about 10 chicks.

Posted in: News, Pheasant Outlook, Conservation, Habitat Management


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