Invertebrates are an important food source for grouse chicks, especially within the first 2 weeks of life. Invertebrate abundance is highly patchy and dependent upon herbaceous cover and vegetation structure. We examined the relationship between invertebrate biomass (from sweepnet samples) and habitat structure at lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) brood-use and non-use areas during 2001 and 2002 in a sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia) prairie vegetation community of southwestern Kansas. We delineated use and non-use areas from paired sampling points within and outside 95% utilization distributions of radiomarked brood females, respectively, during the first 60 days post-hatch. We measured vegetation cover and invertebrate biomass (Acrididae and “other” invertebrates) at 71 paired points on 2 study sites (Site 1=4 broods, Site 11 = 12 broods). Both Acrididae and other invertebrate biomasses were greater at brood areas than non-use areas on both study sites, suggesting this food source likely had a greater influence on brood habitat use than vegetation type. Vegetation structure described brood-use areas better than vegetation type because brood-use areas had greater visual obstruction readings (VORs) than non-use areas regardless of dominant cover type. We also examined the predictive relationship between vegetation type and invertebrate biomass. Sand sagebrush density was the best linear predictor of Acrididae biomass, with lower densities having the greatest Acrididae biomass. We propose experiments to determine best management practices that produce abundant invertebrate biomasses for lesser prairie-chicken brood habitat, using our study as a baseline.
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