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Pheasants - Pheasants And People

species natural birds wild

Some species of pheasants are extremely important economically. The most valuable species, of course, is the domestic chicken. Billions of individuals of this species are eaten each year by people around the world, as are even larger numbers of chicken eggs.

Other species of pheasants are important as game birds, and are hunted as a source of wild meat, or for sport. However, pheasants can easily be overhunted, so it is important to conserve their populations. In some places, pheasants are raised in captivity and then released to penned or unpenned areas, where people pay a fee to hunt the birds.

Pheasants are also of great aesthetic importance. Various species are kept in captivity in zoos, parks, and private aviaries. This is mostly done for the pure joy and educational value of having such lovely creatures in plain view.

Unfortunately, many species of pheasants are becoming increasingly scarce and even endangered in their native habitats. This is largely the result of local over-hunting of the birds, in combination with losses of natural habitat due to the harvesting of trees for valuable timber, and often the subsequent conversion of the land into agricultural and residential uses.

The increasing endangerment of so many beautiful species of pheasants is highly regrettable. This problem is only one facet of the general threat posed by human activities to Earth's legacy of biodiversity, and it must be effectively dealt with if species of pheasants are to always live in their wild, natural habitats. The keys to maintaining populations of wild pheasants are to preserved adequate areas of their natural habitat, and to control hunting within sustainable limits.


Resources

Books

Beebe, W. Monograph of the Pheasants. New York: Dover Publications, 1991.

Hill, D., and P. Robertson. The Pheasant. Ecology, Management, and Conservation. London: Blackwell, Sci. Pub., 1988.

Howman, K. The Pheasants of the World. Blackie, WA: Hancock House, 1993.

Sibley, David Allen. The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Knopf, 2000.


Bill Freedman

KEY TERMS

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Feral

—This refers to a non-native, often domesticated species that is able to maintain a viable, breeding population in a place that is not part of its natural range, but to which it has been introduced by humans.

Polygyny

—A breeding system in which a male will attempt to breed with as many females as possible. In birds, the female of a polygynous species usually incubates the eggs and raises the young.

Sexual selection

—This is a type of natural selection in which anatomical or behavioral traits may be favored because they confer some advantage in courtship or another aspect of breeding. For example, the bright coloration, long tail, and elaborate displays of male pheasants have resulted from sexual selection by females, who apparently favor extreme expressions of these traits in their mates.

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