Conservation, Habitat Requirements, Genetic Diversity and Survival of a Translocated Populations of Greater Prairie-chickes in Iowa


Principal Investigator:

Jennifer Vogel

Diane Debinski

Student Investigator:



Stephanie Shepherd, IDNR


January 2013 to December 2016

Funding Source(s):

Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), State Wildlife Grant

Goals and Objectives:

  • Evaluate the genetic diversity of the existing small population of greater prairie-chickens in Iowa and examine the effects on genetic diversity of supplementing the current population with translocated birds. 
  • Develop a habitat suitability model and examine habitat use for greater prairie-chickens in Iowa.  We will use current satellite landcover data along with local scale habitat data to develop a habitat suitability model for greater prairie-chickens in Iowa. 



Genetics:  We collected 74 blood samples from translocated birds in 2013 and 109 blood samples from translocated birds in 2014.  In addition, we collected 86 feather samples from the 2 active lek sites in Iowa in 2014.  Blood and feather samples are being processed at the University of North Texas. 

Lek Surveys:  We conducted prairie-chicken lek surveys weekly from March 20, 2014 to May 8, 2014.  During the surveys, the maximum number of birds observed was 17 on Kellerton lek, 6 on Woods lek, and 12 on Dunn Ranch lek. 

Habitat Surveys:  For grasslands within 3km of active lek sites, we conducted vegetation surveys that include measuring visual obstruction and determining vegetation composition.  We will use this vegetation data to assess habitat use of prairie-chickens within 3km of the active lek sites.  We obtained and reclassified 2009 High Resolution Landcover data for the state of Iowa as the basis for our landscape level habitat suitability model. 

Telemetry:  We attached 12 ARGOS satellite/GPS transmitters to 10 female and 2 male translocated prairie-chickens.  We are continuing to track locations with weekly downloads.  Based on the location data for the birds wearing transmitters, we were able to determine female nesting behavior.  Two of the birds wearing transmitters had successful nests in 2014.

Future Plans:

We are currently working to apply the prairie-chicken habitat model to projected land cover change scenarios in Iowa based on global environmental change scenarios produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

01/01/2013 to 12/31/2016