Where Have All the Pheasants Gone?
Growing up in the tiny farm town of Orland at the north end of California’s Central Valley, a pheasant sighting was a daily occurrence for me. These beautiful Asian transplants were so plentiful, and pheasant hunting was so popular, the annual season opener was practically a national holiday.
People often ask me what happened to all the pheasants. As always, the destruction of habitat is a major factor: Most of the grass-filled ditches where pheasants once nested have been eliminated. Some farming practices have resulted in nests and young birds being crushed under heavy machinery. Perhaps the most damaging factor is the explosive increase in the number of feral cats; it’s estimated that these natural predators kill hundreds of millions of song birds and game birds every year. Family pets who are allowed to multiply unchecked or run wild do more harm to wild bird populations than all of the poachers combined.
Photo of ring-necked pheasant by Jason Montelongo.