As I do most mornings, I peered out the bedroom window to see what life has in store weather-wise. I saw this head sticking up from the grass…which is getting a little tall these days as spring has arrived.
At first I just assume it was a bobwhite quail…a shy and quick moving gamebird. I grabbed my camera and took a few shots through the window (hmm, maybe I shouldn’t say “shots” in this conversation). Ahem, I took a few PHOTOS through the window.
I then sneaked outside and zoomed in to get something clearer and I thought the bird seemed rather large for quail. Birdy then moved into some bushes, so I stealthily crept over to try to get a better view. Well, birdy jumped into the fence, back toward me and then took flight. You would think I was one of my setters flushing the poor thing out.
I headed back into the computer to see what I found. The beak said turkey to me, but the neck was wrong. I thought grouse or pheasant, but those are outside the range of Florida. Seems the only two larger game birds in this range are wild turkey and bobwhite quail. This was obviously a rather young something. Sooooo, I dashed off a photo to the president of the local Audubon chapter and a few of my friends who also are members.
My friend Sandy, who at one time lived in Ohio came up with some potential candidates
It looks like a female Sharp-tailed Grouse (but they are further north and west), or young Ring-necked Pheasant to me…can’t see the tail. I haven’t seen either one of those since I lived in Ohio 40 years ago. I think it may be a pheasant.”
With that info, chapter president Larry confirmed it
I couldn’t figure it out, especially the larger beak, but Sandy is right; not a Grouse but a Ring-necked Pheasant (juvenile male). This is of course not their normal range but they are raised and hunted on private lands and sometimes escape. Some of us saw an adult down near Adams Ranch on our field trip in November.”
Mystery solved! Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)! I suggest that perhaps this bird might want to hang around with me since I don’t have a hunting license.
Well, it must be game bird season in this neck of the woods, as the very next day a covey of Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) quail stopped by to visit. I always see them at this time of year because I have tons of Cranesbill (Geranium carolinianum).
Providing right food conditions is key to attracting birds. Quail are mostly vegetarian types, with seeds and leaves the primary food of adults. As with most birds, when it comes around to breeding time they add a smattering of Arthropods and the kids are fed insects until they are 6-8 weeks old.
In addition to the Cranesbill a few other great native plant choices for gamebirds are Inkberry (Ilex glabra), Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), Shyleaf (Aeschynomene americana), Dahoon Holly (Ilex cassine), Shiny Blueberry (Vaccinium myrsinites), Redbay (Persea borbonia), and several others.
Bobwhites are ground nesters and travel in coveys, of 3–20 individuals. They need grasslands. Bobwhites have an IUCN Conservation Status of Near Threatened due to loss of habitat. Think prairies people…..full of nice plants native to the locale. Many people think the threatened status is because they are hunted, but it was interesting to learn that hunting may just be offering the most protection for gamebirds.
Before you jump on me, I found this information in an article in the Autumn 2012 issue of Living Bird, a publication of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Bobwhite Blues…“Can birders join hunters to protect a game bird?”.
Another interesting week, a rather odd visitor and a visit from some old friends. Maybe the pheasant just decided the north was too darn cold and snowy this year to stay there or maybe the bobwhites clued him in to the good eats in my beautiful wildlife garden.
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