In my opinion the ringneck pheasant is one of the most beautiful birds in North American. I’ve always been fascinated by this species. They can be tricky to photograph since photographing them from a blind is usually not an option. The bird in the photo above was photographed from a car with a 100-400mm lens and a canon 50d. The birds paid little attention to you as long as you stayed in the car. You can estimate the age of a pheasant based on their spur length. I estimate this bird to be 1 1/2 years old.
The best time to see pheasants in the open is after a snow storm when they need to forage for food. These photos were taken in February near Boyers Chute which is north of the Mormon Bridge in Omaha. This area is closed to pheasant hunting and there is lots of grass habitat for the birds.
The pheasant is a hardy bird and can handle cold weather pretty well. Spring snowstorms with heavy wet snow and strong winds can be deadly to pheasants since this kind of weather often plugs their nostrils with snow and ice and they suffocate. They cannot breathe through their mouths.
Pheasants rarely die of starvation unless they lack adequate winter cover adjacent to feeding areas. This pheasant is scratching around in the snow looking for corn.
The ringneck originates from between the Black and Caspian Seas to Manchuria, Siberia, Korea, Mainland China and Taiwan. This photo is taken in South Dakota, the pheasant capital of North America. Grassland habitat adjacent to sloughs and cornfields along with shelter belts are ideal habitat for the birds. Intense farming is removing much of this habitat and pheasant populations have fallen significantly in many states. Pheasants Forever is an organization that works together with State game and park agencies and private landowners to improve habitat conditions. The organization also lobbies state and federal governments for habitat improvement. Destruction of habitat that affects pheasants has also decimated song birds and even honey bee.
Photographing pheasants can be quite a challenge. Pheasants are flighty and seldom stay still long. You need a long lens. I prefer a 100-400 zoom with a camera that has an APS size sensor such as the 50, 60 or 70d. The newer cameras have better auto focus which is very important especially when photographing flying pheasants. Many of the pictures I have were taken in South Dakota where bird abundance is enough to assure you a chance for some photographs,
South Dakota’s hunting day starts at 10:00 AM after the first two weeks. This gives a hunter the chance to drive around early morning and take pictures. Birds are most active the first hour of daylight and the last several hours. Camera sensors that can offer higher ISO’s are important if you which to work at this time of the day. To stop blur on flying birds shutter speeds of 1/1000 or even higher may be necessary.
When I have a chance I like to take my dogs out and let them chase up some birds. I often carry a camera instead of a gun. Video of pheasants is tricky because they can be unpredictable when they flush. Here is a video I did in October