Nature Bulletin No. 59 March 30, 1946
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Superintendent of Conservation
The cock pheasants are crowing. From daybreak until midmorning, and
sometimes in the evening, they may be heard in the forest preserves.
During the winter they congregated in small bands, the hens generally
separate from the cocks. Now the bands are breaking up and each cock
selects a "crowing area" of from 5 to 60 acres which he defends by
fighting off other cocks.
He attracts hens to his area by lusty crowing. When one appears he
clucks and coaxes, picking out choice bits of food for her. Then he
begins to strut his stuff, erecting his ear-tufts and preening his gorgeous
plumage, walking around with stiff arrogant steps and an exaggerated
bobbing motion. If a successful fighter, he may acquire and hold a
harem of as many as 8 hens which he protects until the end of the
nesting season. If repeatedly whipped, he may become a wandering
bachelor. Exit crowing.
The ring-necked pheasant common here and hunted each November, is
from Chinese stock. They prefer corn, wheat, oats and soybeans as food
but can thrive on berries, seeds and the leaves of plants such as the
grasses. They also eat many grasshoppers, beetles and other insects.
Examination of the crops and gizzards of pheasants killed here during
winter months showed some of them packed full with seeds of the red
haw, which may account for the rapid spread of the hawthorne over
fields and meadows no longer cultivated or mowed.
One thing pheasants must have is grit and gravel, or very hard seeds,
which are retained in their gizzards to help digest their food. Daily dust
baths are also important. Along the trails or in fields where there is
loose soil, there will be found many wallowed depressions. The
pheasants lie in these spots, first on one side and then on the other,
kicking dust up between their feathers and vigorously rubbing their
wings and plumage in the dirt.
They must have water to drink but they do not bathe in it.
QUESTION: Why are the cocks so gaudy and the hens so drab? Can
birds distinguish between colors?
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Update: June 2012