As the Iowa landscape turns gold, brown and all those other colors of autumn, we also start seeing some of Iowa’s game bird species a little more often. Familiar game birds include wild turkeys, partridges, doves, grouse, quail, and pheasants, but according to ISU Extension Wildlife Specialist Adam Jahnke, there is now one species you should expect to see less frequently.
“The greater prairie chicken was historically really abundant in Iowa, but due to the pressures of habitat change, [they] are no longer a game species in Iowa.”
Shrinking habitat is the primary pressure on Iowa’s game bird species.
As wildlife biologist Jim Pease explains, the original landscape of Iowa was 85% prairie that was rich with wildlife, but by the year 1900, populations and habitats had been decimated.
Though it may seem unexpected, Pease points to hunting as one of the ways these habitats became restored and conserved. Hunters in Iowa spend over $405 million each year, and much of this money goes to habitat preservation.
“Hunters’ dollars go to purchase habitat, improve habitat, to make places available to the public,” says Pease. “Lots in the hunting community say that hunters were the original conservationists.”
In this episode of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks to Pease and Jahnke about what the most recent population surveys tell us about Iowa’s game birds, as well as the habits and habitats of those species.