Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ring-necked Pheasants: habitat basics

Want to see more pheasants on your land? Give them better habitat! Consider their food, cover and space needs.

Food preferences. Ring-necked pheasants rely most heavily on waste grain from crop fields, wild and cultivated grass and forb seeds, fruits, and leaves. Crop field seeds include corn, wheat, grain sorghum, barley, oats, and sunflowers. Non-grain seeds include legumes, ragweed, smartweed, and burdock. Hard and soft mast in the summer and fall diet include acorns, pine
seeds and wild berries. In their first five weeks after hatching, chicks eat insects almost exclusively.
Adults also eat insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and caterpillars through the spring and summer months. The foods pheasants eat supplies them with the water they need.
Nesting cover. Dense ground cover with good overhead growth is the key. Alfalfa, wheat stubble, cool season grasses, and
native and tame pastures work well. Grassy field corners and odd areas, shelterbelts, field borders and fencerows are also used.
Brood rearing cover. Pheasants want vegetation that is somewhat open near the ground for easy chick travel, with overhead concealment. Native bunch grasses like big and little bluestem, switchgrass, sideoats grama, wheat grasses and Indiangrass
offer this structure. Mixed cool season grasses with forbs and other vegetation that supports insects are also used.
Roosting, escape cover. Ringnecks roost in small trees and tall shrubs, or on the ground in weedy ditches, cattail swales,
brush heaps, and briar patches.
Winter cover. Weedy field borders and fencerows, dense, upright grasslands, abandoned farmsteads, cattail marshes, and
evergreen and hardwood windbreaks are good protection in winter.
Interspersion. A good mixture of differing habitat types, located next to one another, is part of the habitat package pheasants need. To attract pheasants and maintain their populations, offer foraging, nesting, brood-rearing, roosting, winter and escape cover in close proximity. A complex of corn, sorghum and small grain crop fields, unmowed haylands, native prairie grasses, unmowed field borders, windbreaks, and cattail marshes should do well.

Did you
The ringnecked
pheasant, native to
Manchuria, Korea, Japan,
and other Asian countries,
has one of the widest introduced
distributions among
birds on earth. People have
attempted to introduce it in
nearly 50 countries, on every
continent except Antarctica.

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