Concerned with continuing loss of pheasant habitat and declining population of ringnecks and ringneck hunters, Gov. Mark Dayton called for the first-ever Pheasant Summit to be held Saturday in Marshall. About 300 people are expected at the event, intended to seek solutions to the pheasant problem.
Here are facts about the bird in the spotlight:
1881 and 1916
When ring-necked pheasants were first successfully imported from China to the United States; when the birds were successfully released in Minnesota.
Nesting: The nesting season begins with courtship as roosters scatter from winter cover to establish territories. Hens, attracted by crowing, locate roosters, and if they can find good nesting cover, begin to build nests. Hens lay one egg each day. The average clutch is 12. About 23 days after incubation begins, the eggs hatch. Pheasants will re-nest if their nests are destroyed, but won’t if their brood is destroyed by weather or predators.
Median hatch date: June 8, for the past 26 years. Number of chicks that hatch per brood, 5.1.
Growth: Newly hatched chicks weigh two-thirds of an ounce. They are covered with downy feathers and can walk and feed themselves. By three weeks, they can fly about 150 feet.
Food: Pheasants eat insects, weed seeds, corn, soybeans and other crops. Insects are the primary food for young chicks. The protein helps them grow quickly. By five weeks, chicks can weigh almost a half-pound.
Minnesota winters pose great risk for pheasants. Rarely do they freeze or starve, but often snow and cold concentrate birds, making them more vulnerable to predators and storms. During extreme winter weather, pheasants can go up to two weeks without feeding by reducing their metabolism and energy requirements.
Tough life, short life
• The hen will remain with the brood for eight to 10 weeks, but even under her watchful eye half of the brood will be lost to mortality. By the time pheasants reach 16 weeks, their plumage is virtually indistinguishable from adults.
• The average life span is less than a year. Fox, coyote, owls and hawks are primary predators. And raccoons and skunks eat pheasant eggs.
Last 10 years: 414,537 birds
Hunters kill an estimated 65 percent of the fall rooster population, or about 25 percent of the total fall pheasant population. But because pheasants are polygamous, the loss of those roosters won’t affect the overall population.
Average number of pheasant hunters past 10 years
Estimated number of pheasant hunters in 2013
Pheasants Forever members in Minnesota
1.633 million acres
Amount of undisturbed grassland habitat today in the state’s pheasant range
1.72 million acres
Amount in 2007