Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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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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