Doran’s foster mother knows how much I love to see these birds and tells me whenever she sees it, usually just before dusk to feed on the seed beneath the feeders. In the past it’s always been easier to hear than to see, and as a result, I haven’t been able to get any good photos of this species so far. During our visit this time, however, I was thrilled when she told me around 3:30 that the pheasant was under the feeders and rushed to grab my camera. I had to be careful not to make any sudden moves as I approached the window and took a few photos through the glass:
This one shows the pheasant between two of the railings enclosing the back deck. The detail of his breast feathers is quite striking – I never realized how beautiful they were up close!
Ring-necked Pheasants were first introduced as a game bird in Nova Scotia around 1856, but this species wasn’t able to gain a foothold in the province until 1,000 eggs were obtained by the Kings County Fish and Game Association in 1935 and incubated by the domestic hens of local farmers. These eggs ultimately produced a total of only 85 healthy individual pheasants, and it was these birds, along with other individuals released into the wild in subsequent years, that became the progenitors of the current population. In 1943 the pheasant population was large enough and healthy enough to establish the first pheasant hunting season in Kings County. Five years later Annapolis, Digby, Hants and Queens counties all had their own pheasant seasons as well, but the main pheasant population remained concentrated in the Annapolis Valley, with high numbers peaking between 1950 and 1955.
But nature is nature, however, and shortly after reaching its peak the population began to decline. The government attempted to reverse this decline by introducing over 10,000 game farm birds in 1959 and 1960, with smaller introductions taking place in other years, but this effort did nothing to help the crashing population. In fact, a small game biologist advised at the time that the released game farm birds were displacing the wild birds, reducing the overall population.
The government abandoned its restocking program in the early 1960s. Pheasant numbers reached a low in 1964, but then slowly began to recover through natural reproduction, reaching a new high in the mid-1970s and remaining healthy to the present day, particularly in the Annapolis Valley which remains the center of the wild population. It was fabulous to be able to spend a good half hour with this fellow; it’s the closest I’ve gotten to one yet, and remains a highlight of my trip to Nova Scotia!