The Ring-necked Pheasant Has Seen Serious Habitat Loss

The introduced birds thrived in North America until relatively recently, but there's hope for a comeback.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.

This is BirdNote.

The Ring-necked Pheasant is likely the best known bird in North America that isn’t actually native to the continent. Indigenous to east and central Asia, Ring-necked Pheasants were brought in from China in 1881 to foster a viable pheasant population in Oregon. The birds spread throughout the Northwest, and some of them were introduced to the Midwest and other parts of the country. 

Ring-necked Pheasants owe much of their expansion across the continent to their popularity as game birds. Hunters and birders alike admire the cock pheasant’s spectacular, ornate feathering. And for many years, pheasants thrived in the country’s rural landscapes, where small farms offered hay fields and fallow acres, and where hedgerows and stands of trees provided cover for the birds.

Today, though, industrial farming practices leave less and less for pheasants. Hedgerows are disappearing; weedy cover is burned or sprayed with weed killer; pheasant nests succumb to more frequent hay mowing; and livestock overgraze grasslands.

But there is hope for wild pheasants: in some areas of the country, wildlife agencies are working with private landowners to help create favorable habitats, giving the birds the seasonal cover they need for feeding, nesting, and roosting through the seasons.

For BirdNote, I'm Mary McCann.


Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Dominic Black

Written by Bob Sundstrom

Narrator: Mary McCann

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by 

BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org    October 2014/2017   ID#       RNEP-02-2014-10-10    RNEP-01

“The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. Audubon does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates.”