In the Wildlife Garden, Are You Game?

pheasantMar2014BAs 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.

Well, hello there!

Well, hello there!

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. ;)

These are bobwhite quail. That other guy is too big.

These are bobwhite quail. That other guy is too big.

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.

pheasantMar2014AI 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.”

Juvenile Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

Juvenile Ring-necked Pheasant

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.

Hail Hail the gangs all here

Hail Hail the gangs all here

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).

A Florida Native Plant loved by gamebirds!

A Florida Native Plant loved by gamebirds!

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.

Native Plants make good eats

Native Plants make good eats

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.

Hey...I found a grasshopper over here!

Hey…I found a grasshopper over here!

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.

Stunning birds this one is male

Stunning birds this one is male

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?”.

The gals are a little more subdued in color

The gals are a little more subdued in color

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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  1. says

    The situation for bobwhites is much as it is for California Quail. I urge readers to read your Audubon link in which they say.. “Today, farms are much larger and far “cleaner”—with weedy edges removed by mowers or pesticides…. Development and industry have decreased open space across the continent. And finally, nonnative plants are replacing native plants throughout the bobwhite’s range.”
    kathy vilim recently posted..A Butterfly Kind of Day~

    • says

      Sorry, I did not mean to say Audubon. I meant the link:

      from 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?”.

  2. Carole says

    What a nice surprise you had and thanks for the reminder on quail favorites. My cranesbill are just starting to bloom. Have also read quail enjoy milkpeas, clovers, ragweed, beggar ticks, dove week, spurges, peppergrass, wood sorrel and acorns.

  3. says

    Thank you for this information on the grass dwelling birds. They are beautiful, and your pictures are, as always, a joy to see. Minnesota has fewer than 1,000 wild bobwhites left, due to habitat loss. A group of would-be hunters in the southern part of the state is working on a habitat remediation project to help bring them back, so what you said about hunters is exactly right.

  4. says

    What wonderful photos and it is terrific to be in touch with the local Audubon chapter. We moved over the holidays and live right near our local chapter and a wildlife refuge dedicated to bird watching. Now that spring is here, I can’t wait to get out there with my camera and binoculars.

  5. Harry Mozen says

    What about the invasion of Fire Ants? I understand that they are a factor in the decimation of Bob Whites.
    Also, when I was young and was a hunter, a friend and I jumped a female pheasant with a covey of quail, in South Carolina. It seems that it had probably escaped from a nearby resident who raised pheasants.

  6. UrsulaV says

    Oh man, do I envy you the quail! They’ve been nearly wiped out in my county and I’ve never seen one. I’m glad so many are safe with you!

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