Thursday, 12 April 2012

Crowing Pheasants

A regular wake up call (or song) of late, is the early morning crowing of a male Pheasant or two.  The di syllabic notes 'not unlike clearing one's throat, immediately followed by a short noisy wing flutter' (Collins Bird Guide), are a staple of the countryside. 

 Yet Pheasants, despite being around Ireland since the 16th century and being pretty impressive in stature and plumage, are not really on the radar of birdwatchers.  They are of course held in high esteem by the hunting fraternity and the annual autumn release of hand reared birds for the incoming huntng season is a key factor in their familiarity across the land. 

 The introduction of Pheasants to Ireland traces back to the 16th century: the wild population is native to the eastern Caucasus and Asia, including China.

Hand reared Pheasants have a reputation for being a bit static in the countryside, and many birds end up as roadkill victims, (if they survive the shoots at all), somewhat ironically being picked over by Magpies and Hoodies, species regularly driven out of the hunting estates. Their is a recent record of Pheasants, run over by the Dublin-Wexford mainline train near Avoca,  being in turn picked up as carrion by Red Kites, one of which also made fatal contact with the iron horse!

We have a pair regularly walking through the garden, checking for morsels under the seed feeder, the males never cease to fascinate in the depth and range of colour to their showy plumage.  The females are in the opposite: they have a superb plumage designed for concealment as a ground nesting species.

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