Counting the Calls of the Wild

Kansas’ biologists have been pulling more early mornings than the parents of newborn triplets. Well, that’s probably how it seems, at least.

Biologist Jim Pitman listens for calling bobwhite quail Wednesday morning. Biologists annually listen for prairie chickens, doves, pheasants and quail to estimate spring populations.

Jim Pitman, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, upland game coordinator, said most of the agency’s biologists, and some game wardens, have been working on up to four annual spring surveys. The surveys give them some insight into what fall populations may bring.

(And the news isn’t good for one popular species…more on that, later.)

One survey has biologists listening for prairie chicken leks mid-March through mid-April , counting the birds when possible and marking if the calls are greater, lesser or hybrid prairie chickens.

Another survey, officially operated by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, counts cooing doves in late May. Wildlife and Parks runs the counts for whistling bobwhite quail the first two weeks of June and cackling rooster pheasants late April through mid-May.

Counts are operated so they can accurately be compared to past years.

“We go back to the same basic places year after year,” said Pitman. “We get an idea of the breeding population size and the carry-over from last winter. It’s also real helpful to know distributions, especially for prairie chickens.”

One thing surveys have shown this year, is that Kansas’ current pheasant population has dropped significantly from last year.

One region has about 70-percent fewer roosters than a year ago, and others are down about 40-50 percent.

Check Sunday’s outdoors page in The Eagle and at for more details.