[Tweeters] Pheasant question and comment

Hal Opperman hal at catharus.net
Fri Apr 5 16:59:14 PDT 2019


The Breeding Birds of Washington State by Smith, Mattocks & Cassidy (1997) models predicted breeding habitat for each species, based in part on records from the Washington Breeding Bird Atlas from 1987 through 1996. Atlas work was continued in depth for another four years in King, Kittitas, and Kitsap counties, plus a thorough survey of Island County in 2001-2002. The results of the full effort (1987-2002) can be studied in the website Sound to Sage (www.soundtosage.org), published by the Seattle Audubon Society. This expanded survey includes a large number of atlas blocks in those five counties that were not seriously covered (or not at all) in the original atlas years.

On the Sound to Sage website, Ring-necked Pheasants are shown in well more than half of the atlas blocks of Kitsap County, with breeding either confirmed or probable in twelve of these blocks. Nothing new for King, where the species was in steep decline by then, and only a couple of records in Island County with no breeding evidence.

In Kittitas County, the website data reveal a dense concentration of pheasants in the southeastern (Columbia Basin) portion of the county. Thirteen blocks show status of probable or confirmed breeding.

Sound to Sage is also revealing for the Wild Turkey question that came up on Tweeters the other day. Turkeys were only found on two blocks across the full atlas period, both of them in the extension years and both in Kittitas County. The first was from near Taneum Point on South Cle Elum Ridge (1999), and the second in the Swauk Creek basin north of Liberty (2000). These were the final two years of atlas surveying in Kittitas County. Perhaps they are witness to the initial implantation of what was to became a successful and expanding population of turkeys in the county.

Those atlas years all seem like ancient history now, but the records do provide a revealing baseline against which to measure the following two or three decades of rapid change in the status of avian species and, of course, their habitats.

Hal Opperman








> On Apr 5, 2019, at 3:39 PM, Stephen Chase <schasecredo at gmail.com> wrote:

>

> Gary,

> 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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