Recently I received a few photos from Kathleen Kofod from Cherry Creek of a visitor to her yard that she named Phinneas. Phinneas happens to be a pheasant she has visiting her property. It is one of several game birds we have in our county, and the submission of the picture reminded me that I have not covered this group of wild birds in the past. The four members of this group found in our county in addition to the Pheasant, are the Wild Turkey and the Ruffed Grouse, which are reported as all year birds, and the Northern Bobwhite, which has been reported occasionally in our county during mid-summers. Worldwide it is estimated that this group consists of 183 species, 12 species in North America, and, the four mentioned that are found in our county.
Starting with the pheasant, which is a common bird to almost everyone in this area, it is observed almost all year in the appropriate habitats. One of several species of animals introduced to our country by our founders; originally the pheasants were common in the eastern borders of the Mediterranean Sea. They are the result of a genetic cross between the English Pheasant and the Ring-necked Pheasant. The Ruffed Grouse and Wild Turkey can also be considered all year birds in our county in appropriate habitats. The best known habit of the grouse is its drumming, created by wing beats of the male bird as it rapidly beats its wings through the air creating the sound many of us are familiar with.
Continuing with the Pheasant, during the 1940s this bird suffered severe declines in population due to loss of grasslands. From the 1966 to 1975 season along with the 1976-1985 and the 1986 to 1994 periods, declines occurred featured by occurring on the heels of severe winters with heavy snow covers and extreme cold. In order to compensate for the loss of several of these birds, the State Department of Conservation has been releasing both adult and chicks in hopes of restoring the population. One of the keys to maintaining adequate populations is the continued conservation process just described. The Ruffed Grouse is usually found in forested areas. It was feared in the late 1800s that this bird may be on to extinction. Declines recorded during recent census surveys, indicated that they seem to not be too successful during severe winters, such as data from the winters of 1966-1975, 1976-1985, and 1986-1994. I can identify with a few of these situations since I served as a School Superintendent during a few of those periods and was responsible for school closings. Today Biologists make it a point to annually release chicks in an attempt to bring stability to the populations.
The Ruffed Grouse, another released bird to our area, is well known for its drumming as mentioned. Normally a forested animal, and, ground nester, while population studies over the years appear to demonstrate stability with the species, there was periods of time when scientists occasionally feared that the bird was seriously declining. Some of the feared predators on this bird are the Great Horned Owl, Northern Goshawk and the Coopers Hawk.
The next bird is the Bobwhite, a rare species in our county with only a few isolated sightings in late spring. This little bird has been raised over the years for the hunters due to its popularity as a game bird. A primarily sedentary bird that can be found all year round, it appears to be demonstrating a downward trend, however game farm releases occasionally give the appearance of a sense of population stability, thought this is being watched closely.
The last member of this group to discuss is the well-known Turkey. While I assume everyone reading this column knows the Turkey, probably few are as familiar with its history. Primarily an all year bird and a ground nester, often building the nest at the base of a tree or brush pile, the hens remain with the young after the nesting period while the hens and male young remain with the flock. When the young males reach a certain age they usually form their own group.
Photographs, sightings and article suggestions can be sent to me by U.S. mail at 38 Elm St. Fredonia N.Y. 14063, or by e-mail at email@example.com. Thank you.