Conserve The Wild
Rooting for the Detroit...Pheasants?
When you think of urban wildlife, what comes to mind? Rats? Pigeons? Squirrels? Whitetail deer? Maybe Peregrine Falcons if you are thinking outside of the box. Pheasants, however, are not a species that typically comes to mind when thinking about urban wildlife. Yet, in Detroit, Michigan, pheasants are exactly the kind of wild bird you might catch a glimpse of.
Pheasants are known for the striking, brightly-colored feathers of a male rooster. Those bright red, orange, and gold feathers are especially beautiful when it catches the sun just right. Early in the morning or late in the evening, you may even hear the sound of the distinct cackle of one of those roosters.
Pheasants, introduced to North America from Asia in 1881, can be a common sight in farmer fields and rural environments. Their numbers have dwindled, nationwide, due to habitat loss and a change in farming practices, but they still remain a symbol of a properly functioning ecosystem. But to see them in an urban environment, filled with concrete and skyscrapers? That’s unlikely…other than Detroit.
What makes Detroit so special? The city’s vacant lots and green spaces offer ideal habitats for these birds to thrive. City parks, riverbanks, and gardens provide ample sources of food and shelter for pheasants. This mix of habitat allows them to survive and reproduce. While there isn’t certain evidence for how they came into the city, one can easily assume that the overgrowth next to the abundant railroad tracks provided a “highway” for them to move in.
These birds have now become a regular sight in neighborhoods like Indian Village, Jefferson Chalmers, and North Rosedale Park. They provide a unique touch of nature in an otherwise sterile nature environment. The presence of pheasants offers an opportunity for residents and visitors to observe and appreciate the natural world without having to leave the city. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has also taken the opportunity to teach visitors of the Outdoor Adventure Center about them.
These birds, living in a unique environment, and the educators of the Michigan DNR provide an opportunity to connect with nature. This connection can lead to seeking out more opportunities to participate in nature. With more and more research suggesting that time spent in a natural outdoor setting is important for improving mental health, a unique bird like the pheasant can play an important role in helping people living in the city.