Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ring-necked Pheasants

ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
We were pleasantly surprised to see an unusual sight today, a group of about eight ring-necked pheasants wandering through the back yard.  There has been quite a bit of snow recently, with the latest inch or two falling last night.  These birds, six males and two females (plus or minus), walked in from the bottom prairie, explored and foraged among the trees behind the house, and then flew in a rush a couple hundred feet to the east for some additional searching for something to eat.

We frequently remark about the apparent decline in the number of pheasants we've seen in recent years.  Ten years ago, it was an almost daily occurrence to see or hear one of these beautiful birds flying into the prairie, moving around in the upper savanna, or running across the road in front of the car. Today, it is rare that we see a pheasant anywhere in the area.  Apparently, this is not an isolated situation; pheasants are having a hard time throughout much of North America.  Although not native (pheasants were introduced from Asia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries), pheasants thrived here.  However, their population peaked around 1950 and has been declining since.

Loss of habitat heads the list of reasons for the decline, likely locally as well as regionally.  These birds like hay and grain agricultural areas, especially where there are grassy borders and pockets of tall grass and trees (sound familiar?).  They historically did well in the agricultural Midwest, but the changes from small multi-crop farms to large monoculture farming practices have taken their toll.  Alas.  Anyway, it was so fun to see this "large" group, that I have to include another photo.
ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

1 comment:

  1. You epitomize the words Dorothy and Bing made famous..."There's no place like home! Thanks for the tour. (tritely) I say, 'It's beautiful"