Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ring-necked Pheasant

For ages I have wanted to get some decent photographs of the ring-necked pheasants which live in the Annapolis Royal area. I often see these large showy birds as I am making my way through the countryside. Unfortunately, when it comes to taking pictures these birds can pose a problem. They tend to spook very easily and are gone with a flutter of wings and a distinctive call of "cuk cuk". With the snow we have received in January and February the pheasants have started coming to the feeders at our house. The last two mornings I have been able to sneak up to our front window and get some pictures of this elusive bird as they get a meal of sunflower seeds.

in addition to being pretty, ring-necked pheasants are actually an interesting historic tale. Unlike many of the plants and animals we see in the forests of Nova Scotia these are not a native species. There is a long history of those who came to live in Nova Scotia bringing plants and animals with them. Faunal remains found in Acadian archaeological sites show that the early settlers only made use of native species for a short time. After using species like the now extinct passenger pigeon for a short time the Acadians quickly transitioned to cows, pigs and sheep for their meat.

The introduction of ring-necked pheasants is of somewhat more recent vintage. The Christian Messenger of September 24, 1856 includes the following act of the Nova Scotia Legislature which appears at the bottom of this post. Other attempts were made to introduce pheasants in the 1890s, 1920s and 1930s. Locally an attempt was made to introduce 50 birds in Clementsvale in 1924. The birds I was photographing this morning were undoubtedly related to those 50. The provincial government has a more thorough history of the introduction of the pheasant.

The introduction of the pheasant is part of a continuing pattern by settlers of European origins importing species for their own ends. Some of these species were introduced for agricultural reasons. Others, like the pheasant, were introduced as the quarry of hunters. Some like the starling were introduced for reasons as strange as trying to ensure that all of the creatures that appear in Shakespeare's work would be found in North America. Some of these species have out-competed native species while some, like the ring-necked pheasant continue to eek out a marginal existence.

All for now,

Provincial Secretary's Office
Halifax, August 22, 1856
An Act for the Preservation of Pheasants.
Passed the 18th day of April 1856.

Be it enacted by the Governor, Council and Assembly, as follows

1. It shall not be lawful for any person to take or kill, within this Province, any Pheasant, or to buy, sell, or have in possession any dead Pheasant that has been so taken or killed.

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