Science

Detroit Has a Large Population of Ring-Necked Pheasants, and They Are Striking

TRANSCRIPT

Natalie Cypher: They can be very elusive and quiet and secretive until they’re not.

I think it’s neat that Detroit is, as far as I know, as far as anybody that I’ve talked to knows, Detroit’s the only city that has a population of pheasants. 

It’s a very striking bird. It’s a beautiful bird. And if you don’t know what it is, the first time you see it, you’re going to find out, because they’re just so striking and beautiful.

They are not native to North America, actually. So they’re native to Asia. And they were brought over here and to North America about the 1880s as a game bird.

I would suspect that they may have gotten into the city through an undisturbed sort of natural corridor such as a railway.

It’s a straight line to get from one place to another and there’s usually brushy areas there that would provide food for an animal like a pheasant.

However they got here, I would suspect that they stayed because there’s a lot of open vacant land in the city of Detroit, more so than some of your other big cities. 

Open lots, open parking lots, gravel, grassy areas, maybe even parks and playgrounds that haven’t been mowed in a few years, and to a pheasant that looks a lot like their native grassland habitat.

They’re mostly seed and berry eaters, and because this grass is not mowed, it would be providing more of the seeds and things like that that the pheasant would be feeding on.

They seem to have a perfectly good niche here without moving other species out, like an invasive species would do. 

If folks in Detroit want to keep pheasants around, they do need habitat. 

If you eliminate the habitat, you would eliminate the birds as well. I think that spreading the word about the importance of these habitats for pheasants.

Development could be a threat to the birds but I think that if it’s done in a way where you’re still maintaining some of those vegetation corridors for the pheasants. It seems that they’re pretty resilient to the development that is happening around them. And I think with a little bit of mindful planning, I think development can still happen. But some intentional habitat would be great for the pheasants as well.

Even just small areas of land that are set aside as a nature preserve or a bird preserve that can be managed intentionally as a grassy habitat, rather than just unintentionally left overgrown. That’s good for the pheasants. But people would like to see something that’s managed and manicured and intentionally cared for as a preserve, I think.

And I just think it would be great to keep the presence here in Detroit because they’re kind of like an emblem of the city. 

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