[Tweeters] Pheasant question and comment

Stephen Chase schasecredo at gmail.com
Fri Apr 5 15:39:05 PDT 2019

I'd love for eBird to have as options Ring-necked Pheasant (feral) or
Ring-necked Pheasant (domestic). Either would more accurately represent the
status of Ring-necked Pheasant at least in western Washington, and likely
elsewhere. Until then, for the sake of Cornell's use of the data, I'll
record the species, although I don't count it on my personal life, state,
or county list.
Stephen Chase

On Fri, 5 Apr 2019 at 15:16, Gary Bletsch <garybletsch at yahoo.com> wrote:

> Dear Tweeters,


> Yesterday I saw a Ring-necked Pheasant in Lewis County. I was about to

> enter the sighting on eBird, but I don't know if the species is really

> established there.


> Short version of question: are they countable in Lewis County?


> Long version is more of a comment than a question...


> On eBird, one can search for photos or other records of a species using

> certain criteria. I searched for records of immature or juvenile pheasants

> in Lewis County, to no avail. Then I searched for the entire state of

> Washington; there are just three photos of juvenile or immature pheasants

> for the whole state (two photos in Okanogan County and one in Yakima). None

> of those were what I'd call chicks.


> I seem to recall seeing a brood of pheasants somewhere in Eastern

> Washington, but I have nothing in my field notes to back up that long-ago

> memory. I did record seeing two birds that I thought were a pair once, in

> Grant County, but that is it...one suggestion of possible breeding, out of

> my 122 lifetime records of the species in this state.


> The eBird map of Ring-necked Pheasant distribution in Washington shows

> them occurring across wide swaths of the state. Meanwhile, the map on page

> 135 in the breeding bird atlas (*Breeding Birds of Washington State* by

> Smith, Mattocks & Cassidy) suggests a somewhat smaller range, lacking many

> of the peripheral sightings shown on the eBird maps. Most of the shaded

> "core zones" on the atlas map lack any data for breeding records--the

> shading just shows habitat modelling.


> The atlas came out in 1997, so there might be new information available.

> Even so, it is worth noting that the atlas shows concentrated areas of

> confirmed breeding records in just six areas: Port Angeles-Sequim;

> scattered Puget Sound sites in King, Pierce, Mason, and Jefferson Counties;

> around Yakima; around the south end of Potholes Reservoir; northern Spokane

> County; and southern Walla Walla County.


> For Lewis County, the atlas shows one record of probable breeding

> evidence, plus seven "possibles." The "possibles" were birds "in suitable

> breeding habitat during nesting season" or "singing male present in

> suitable habitat."


> The status of this species in Washington has had me scratching my head for

> years. I cannot think of any other introduced bird species that is counted

> by so many birders in so many places where there is so little evidence for

> a self-sustaining population.


> Closer to my own birding patch, Skagit County, it amazes me that birders

> count pheasants at the Game Range (Wiley Slough). The birds are housed in a

> pen there, until it is time to release them for the hunt. They often

> continue to stay right next to the pen. The situation on the Samish Flats

> is the same--released birds.


> The atlas shows nothing beyond five records of "possible breeding

> evidence" in Skagit County. If I remember correctly, some of those five

> were my own observations, in places where I later learned that pheasants

> were being bred and released.


> My local birding friends and I have seen no evidence for breeding since

> then. I have never seen a juvenile Ring-necked Pheasant in the county. By

> contrast, I have seen baby Ruffed Grouse, baby Sooty Grouse, baby

> California Quail, baby White-tailed Ptarmigan, and even baby Spruce Grouse

> in Skagit County!


> Why no baby pheasants?


> The ABA has a web page on "Criteria for Determining Establishment of

> Exotics. Here is a link.


> http://listing.aba.org/criteria-determining-establishment-exotics/


> The document lists eight criteria for an exotic species to be countable by

> ABA rules. For Skagit County, and almost certainly several other Washington

> counties as well, the Ring-necked Pheasant fails on at least four of those

> criteria, loosely quoted here. Those would be criterion #4 (large enough

> population to survive routine mortality); #5 (sufficient offspring being

> produced); #7 (not directly dependent on humans); and #8 (published record

> that the first seven criteria have been met).


> These criteria, above all #5, stop me in my tracks, every time I start

> thinking about adding the Ring-necked Pheasant to my Skagit list. This goes

> for several other species that I have observed in the wild in Skagit County

> as well: Greylag Goose, Muscovy Duck, Chukar, Bobwhite, Wild Turkey,

> Helmeted Guinea Fowl, and Red Jungle Fowl. Eight species, down the drain!


> My apologies if this all sounds like pettifoggery.


> I'd still love to find out if they're countable in Lewis County!


> Yours truly,


> Gary Bletsch



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