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Beautiful Pheasants

Thursday, July 10, 2008

They're introduced, but they've made themselves at home, these Chinese ring-necked pheasants on the Dakota plains. Ye gods! they are beautiful. I am told that, as a baby in my natal state of South Dakota, I was fed quite a bit of creamed pheasant. I had my first bird epiphany as a toddler, hanging onto my father's legs as he plucked a pheasant in a toolshed, a single light bulb hanging overhead. "Was it a mommy pheasant or a daddy pheasant?" I wailed, torn apart at the thought that my father could shoot this bird whose beautiful feathers rained all around me. I'm told he didn't hunt after that.

This is not why I love them now. I love them because they are extravagantly beautiful, unexpected, delightful in the extreme. It seems too good to be true that they could take hold here in America, walk across the road in front of my car.

Let us celebrate the pheasant.

Like a poppy in the grass he is.
He can be contemplative on a rainy afternoon
or straightforwardly splended in his layered silken cloaks.
There is no question that he wishes to be seen.
even down to the ear tufts few are privileged to glimpse.
Ah, pheasant, sneaking through the grass, I cannot get enough of you.
Your mate, demure in khaki, hides without trying, fading into the glory of you.
Rooster, springy in tail and gait, I love you, and the pictures you paint in the waving grass.


Gosh they are purty birds.

Two memories of them. My uncle who had a dairy farm in Wisconsin raised pheasants and peacocks just because they were so beautiful.

I was very conflicted when my dad would go on his yearly hunting weekend. On the one hand, I hated if he killed anything (usually a pheasant), on the other hand, it was a treat when he was gone. I loved my dad but he smoked like a chimney so two days without that stinky haze was like heaven, AND we got to have french toast for dinner! Something my dad would never agree to. Luckily, I think it was more of a bonding weekend for my dad and his brothers as he came home with a bird maybe 25% of the time. Ah, memories. Thanks for the memory jog.

Verily, the ear tufts are Made of Awesome, and I am awed.

When we first moved into our house (in 1980) there were empty lots across from us. By chance, we had a family of pheasants living there for several years. It was so wonderful--in mid-suburbia--to see the male & female strut with their chicks. Then someone went and built houses there, and the pheasants vanished.
I must say I much preferred the pheasants as neighbors.

What a wonderful sight that must have been. Just looking at your photos is delightful. Thanks for sharing.

I lived my first three years on an air force base in England. There was a field behind our house and my father and his friends used to shoot pheasants through the bedroom windows. My mother cooked them. One day my sister went to school and told the class that we had had PEASANT pie for dinner.

My first Ring-necked Pheasant was a window strike when I was between 7 and 10 years old. It broke the window, too! I still remember being stunned by how beautiful and exotic it looked and being saddened that its bright lights were extinguished. I was also disgusted by the neighbor who suggested we eat it.


Once again Julie, not only am I awed by your wonderful pictures, but also the outstanding words you use to accompany them.
Pheasants are one of my favorite birds too.

I've just begun to see a pheasant on my drive home each evening. And last time a female was with him.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to see a family some day soon!

Love his silken cloaks. The fitting description for such a noble character.

The sound of a pheasant breaking loose from a field is a sound I will ever associate with my childhood. To this day it stops me in my tracks.

Thank you for highlighting this beautiful bird. I am happy to report that when I first met my husband - I was able to influence him to no longer hunt for these beautiful creatures.

He's splendid! Such a strutter that one! :c)

One of the other neat things about cock pheasants is that when examined closely no two seem to be exactly alike and sometimes there is a really wide variation in coloration amongst half a dozen males from the same general area. Gaudy snowflakes!

As for hunting (and not to troll the subject, I hope) it has almost no impact on populations (true of many gallinaceous birds):
apart from bringing in DNR money and spawning a species specific conservation group dedicated to habitat issues:

Thanks for your links, mdmnm. As I'm sure you know, that post wasn't meant to be an anti-hunting screed--just a random recollection from my toddlerhood. I don't have a philosophical problem with pheasant hunting, especially since they were imported for the purpose, and sometimes parasitize the nests of native galliforms by dumping their eggs in them. I only get pissy about galliform hunting when people shoot sage grouse and prairie chickens, whose populations are precarious enough wherever they occur without the added drain of yearly "harvests." Those, I think we should manage and let alone.

Oh no, I didn't take it as a screed by any means. Just beating my drum of "no hunters, no habitat". That's one of the reasons I disagree with you and think that it is important to maintain hunting seasons (where biologically responsible) for sage grouse and prairie chickens- keep people interested and economically invested in those birds. I hope that the success hunters have had with protecting, promoting, and increasing so many other species might someday be repeated, especially with big, spectacular birds like the sage grouse. Unfortunately, their habitat requirements and the unprepossessing nature of most of that habitat makes their recovery a bit more of a challenge.

I have very limited experience with pheasants, though there are some in the middle Rio Grande valley of New Mexico, but I will say that, apart from being showy, they seem to be one of those birds that respond to hunting pressure by becoming extremely wary very quickly, making them very challenging to dog and man as a quarry. Yet another thing to love about them.

"I only get pissy about galliform hunting...." That made me laugh for some reason. Maybe 'cause you said "pissy".

Loves the phez.
"I'm too sexy for this field...too sexy for this field...."

Well, all I can say is that I came here feeling rather tired and wistful, and this post was pure joy — words and images. Thank you, Julie.


Hi Julie! Thanks so much for your kind words on my fledgling blog. I have long admired yours--and you! Now that we live in the "fabin" I can look everyday at your painting of the bluebirds in winter that I gave to John.

And, you're right--we are practically neighbors I realized while pondering a map last week. Perhaps we'll get to visit in person someday while traipsing the countryside.

Love the pheasants!
Meg Menkedick

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