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Upland Birds and Predators

Upland Birds and Predators

by Daryl Fisher, Biologist
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
Garden City, Kansas

One thought that often comes up when folks talk about not having enough pheasants or quail around, is the idea of predator control to increase bird numbers. It is true that predators destroy many eggs and kill young and adult birds. After all, that is how predators live, by killing and eating other animals. So, does it make sense to expend a lot of time, effort, and money in removing predators to increase quail and pheasant numbers?

Studies have shown that in areas of relatively poor upland bird habitat, extensive predator control can result in more birds than without predator control. However, in areas of good upland bird habitat, extensive predator control resulted in little or no improvement in fall bird numbers over not having any concerted predator control.

Poor habitat not only means there are fewer birds, it also makes it easier for predators to find nests and kill a significant number of birds that are present. In good habitat areas, more birds are around, but predators still have a difficult job of finding birds and nests. Also, once old enough to be mobile, birds have a much better opportunity to escape predators when good habitat is abundant. Predators of upland birds are also generalist predators, meaning when it becomes difficult to kill or find one type of prey, they switch over to hunting other prey, often meaning rodents. Many rodents also eat eggs, so increased predation on rodents can further decrease overall predation on upland bird nests.

Enjoy the sport of predator hunting yourself, or let others partake in it on your farm or ranch. But will it make a huge difference in the bird numbers you have around? It probably won’t. Habitat is ultimately the key to having abundant populations of upland birds or most any other wildlife. Provide the proper habitat, and you will be doing the most you can to ensure the birds will be there.

For more information about how to improve habitat for upland birds, or other wildlife, please contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office or conservation district office located at your local county USDA Service Center. To learn more about NRCS, visit the Kansas NRCS Web site at

This article is also available in Microsoft Word format.

Upland Birds and Predators (DOC; 48 KB)