"Where Have All The Pheasants Gone?"

ring-necked pheasant        Agriculture in Utah has undergone a radical change in the last 30 years. Utah Pioneers used flood irrigation to bring the water from the mountains to the desert flats which transformed the western deserts to fertile farm grounds. The use of flood irrigation, with crisscrossed ditches, has given way to plastic pipe, huge wheel sprinklers, and water efficient pressurized systems. This change has revolutionized crop growing across the west. Many small Utah fields are now consolidated into huge tailor-made plats just the right size for the new irrigation systems. Shifting to pressurized systems with the highly efficient water sprayers allows farmers to grow bigger and better crops with less water and far fewer labor costs.

        The once small fields with fences, windbreaks, hedgerows, and ditches full of water were a food source and a haven for wildlife. With the advent of the new sprinkler irrigation, trees and hedgerows were pulled out, fields were consolidated, ground was leveled, and water wasted on fields’ corners and edges were eliminated.

        Many bird species use the undisturbed hedgerows for breeding, nesting, and cover. The Ring-necked Pheasants is a prime example. The once abundant Pheasants are now rarely seen on a drive through the fields. A good question for this desert country is ‘Where Have All the Pheasants Gone’. Pheasants do well in man’s environment of flood irrigated pastures, but when the cover of the fence lines and hedgerows go, so goes the Pheasants.

        Pheasants were introduced to Utah in the 1800s. Fathers and Grandfathers would take advantage of a Pheasant Hunt to enjoy the outdoors, teach their young Sons to stock and shoot (girls too if they wanted to come along), and put food on the table. It was a big family event. Nowadays, there are hunting lodges, clubs, and preserves that provide the Pheasants, for a fee. Come along on a Red Cliffs Audubon Field Trip with some of the best birders around. Learn about birds, their habitat, and where you’re sure to find some beauties. Other game birds out there are Chukar, Quail, and Wild Turkeys. This is a great area to live and enjoy being outdoors.

        Keith Davis is the artist this week. What a beauty the Pheasant is. If you have questions about Pheasants, or just want to talk birds, call Marilyn at 435 673-0996.

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