Grassland wildlife part of action plan update

November 01, 2013 at 06:14 AM
Grassland wildlife includes more than just rabbits, pheasants and quail.

These days, biologists are looking to count dickcissels, bobolinks, grasshopper sparrows and Henslow’s sparrows at the same time they are looking for pheasants and quail.

That’s because all grassland wildlife suffers when habitat dwindles.

“We’re going to be working on an update for the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, kind of a snapshot to show where we are now,” said Stan McTaggart, of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources agriculture and grassland wildlife program.

“That will take some time, but we are going to start reaching out real soon to gear up for that revision.”

Other grassland birds give biologists clues to the types of habitat available.

Some do well in small patches. Some need large blocks. Others need undisturbed grasslands that have not been recently burned.

“To most people they are just ‘little brown jobs,’ but a lot of those birds are good indicators of the amount of succession that has taken place and the quality of grasslands as well,” McTaggart said.

Pheasants, for example, do well in newer conservation plantings where plenty of bare ground remains between clumps of vegetation to allow for easy movement.

Grass plantings that grow too thick often must be burned, disked or treated with herbicide to open up some areas.

Many conservation programs require some sort of management as a condition of the contract.

Several grassland birds on the Illinois list of threatened and endangered species need large tracts of grass for breeding and finding food, including short-eared owls, northern harriers and greater prairie chickens.

Upland game hunting for rabbits, pheasants, Hungarian partridge and bobwhite quail opens Saturday statewide.

Hunting hours are sunrise to sunset.

Daily limits are:

Rabbit – 4
Cock pheasant – 2
Hungarian partridge – 2
Bobwhite – 8

Seasons close Jan. 8 in the north zone and Jan. 15 in the south zone.

Central Illinois hunters should check the zone maps in the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations.

U.S. 36 divides north and south zones from the Indiana state line to Springfield. The line continues north on Illinois 29 to Pekin and then follows Illinois 9 from Pekin to Dallas City. The line then continues due west to the Mississippi River.