Conservation-I Haven’t Seen That For Awhile! By: Kevin Williams, Grundy County Conservation Director
May 10, 2013
The other evening, my wife and I were in the car. Headed somewhere – I don’t remember where but we were in a hurry. Too many times we find ourselves in the car and in a hurry. But on this particular trip, we paused for a moment. Came to a complete stop, in fact. Yes, stopped the car right in the middle of the gravel road to watch a pair of ringneck pheasant roosters fighting in the field edge a few yards away. I stopped because for one, I hadn’t seen that for awhile. And I don’t know if my wife had ever really had the opportunity to see that before. The two went right on with the show paying us the no-never-mind. The two brightly colored males would square off and then suddenly launch into the air clashing in a flurry of feathers and spurs before landing and being ready to do it again. As I pulled away, I noticed another rooster coming on the dead run to become a part of the show. I keep calling it a show, because that is what it is. Sometimes it’s about establishing a territory, other times it’s about defending a territory, and sometimes it is hanging on to a mate who has already accepted his advances. It is highly likely that a drab colored hen was close at hand watching this show. What is the purpose of these theatrical shows? What is this information being passed on to other birds of the same or opposite sex? If all of this is so attention-grasping to us, think of what it must be to the pheasants. The more we find out about courtship behaviors, the more fascinating and intricate they can become. In this case, the knock-down drag-out fight taking place right before our very eyes demonstrated to the competitor that his foe is one tough old bird. It demonstrated that very same thing to the fair damsel of a hen waiting in the wings. That hen wants to mate with the strongest of the group thus passing along the fittest genes to the next generation. She is attracted to the best dressed (plumage), best singer (crowing), and most athletic (winner of the fight) male suitor. For a lot of people, spring is the time to watch and admire bird displays and vocalizations associated with mating. Some birds display by strutting, fanning and drumming. Their maneuvers may be coupled with crowing, spitting, cooing, and cackling. This pheasant fight occurred less than a football field distance from my yard. Even closer, in the road ditch in front of my house, Red-winged blackbirds show off their red shoulder patches. These blackbirds use flashes of color, along with ear-catching vocalizations to tell the same things to others of their species. Now, I find myself in the same situation that I did a couple of weeks ago. I have far more to share about the subject than column space. So, I’ll have to wait until next week to share the many other aspects of courtship utilized in the bird world. Can’t wait I’ll bet!
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