Ring-necked Pheasants Bargain Notecard

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Ring-necked Pheasants (Phasianus colchicus)

The colorful ring-necked pheasant was introduced to North America in the later nineteenth centrury.  Travelers to China were so taken with the birds there that they sent baskets of these pheasants home to Oregon.  They were protected by law in Oregon for ten years as their population grew.  Soon after, starter flocks were shipped to locations across the United States.  The popularity of the birds was so great that by 1943 the ring-necked pheasant was named South Dakota's state bird.

Ring-necked males measure a yard in length, of which 21 to 22 inches is tail plumes.  It is completely speckled and barred in variations of gold, copper, and bronze colors.  The head is brilliantly decoratied with red cheeks, a purplish-blue neck and white collar.  This proud bird will fight furiously to collect its harem of hens.  It claps its wings and calls out in bugle-like cries to stake its claim and take on challengers.  Ring-necks have been known to show up in farm yards to defeat roosters and herd the chickens into the wild.  Fall and winter seasons bring solidarity as pheasant groups unite to fend off hungry predators.  The older, wiser birds teach the others how to find food in the snow.

Pheasant hens more resemble the ruffed grouse, which camouflages them in meadows and open woods where they nest and feed.  The North American climate is well suited for the pheasant with exceptions of the southern states where high temperatures prevent the eggs from hatching.  Unfortunately, increasing human land use consistently decreases the habitat available to pheasants.  Attempts to breed ring-necked pheasants have met with poor results.  These birds will fight to the death for its freedom.  Game farms have discovered that farm-raised chicks lose all their wild instincts for survival when domestically bred.

Because the ring-necked pheasant eats weed seeds and insect pests like fruit flies, gypsy moths and tent caterpillars they help prevent damage to crops.  In exchange, available hedgerows, open meadows and hunting restirctions must be created to ensure their continued survival as North American wildlife.

Bernard C. Scott 1994

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