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Are They Hungry? By: Nick Buseman, Grundy County Conservation Operation Supervisor

March 7, 2019
Northern-Sun Print
Pretty sure they are. Many of Grundy County’s wildlife species are surly struggling with the plentiful snow, ice, and cold. It is a very common sight to see pheasants in groups picking along roadways across the county. These birds are scratching for a morsel of food, while picking pieces of gravel for their digestive system. This winter is a real bummer when it comes to our pheasant population. Their numbers have finally had a bit of a resurgence with the past few mild winters and favorable spring weather patterns. Driving to and from work it is easy to witness the fruits of the favorable weather we have had the last two years by the number of birds trying to survive. Seeing their struggle it tends to pull on the ole heart strings and cause us to wonder if there is anything we can do to help them survive. Human nature mixed with a farming and livestock community one of the most common questions and debates we get into is if we should be feeding these struggling birds. The Iowa DNR does not encourage feeding these birds; which is very hard for many to understand. Biologists at the DNR encourages the public to resist the temptation to feed wild pheasants. Their biologists’ opinion is that if there isn’t adequate habitat, by feeding them you are causing them to congregate and allowing them to be more susceptible to predation where there isn’t enough cover. Also the states veterinarians say that by congregating birds in a feeding site you are opening the door to different diseases. Being an agricultural state the threat of the avian influenza is a real issue that many poultry producers are concerned about. By concentrating wild birds at a feeding site the risk of spreading this disease is a real concern. The best way to help upland birds throughout the winter is something we need to think about well before the winter months. Winter cover and food plots are the best ways to help these birds survive the winter. A healthy pheasant that has built up its fat reserves all fall only needs to eat every two weeks to sustain his or her self through the winter months. So a simple food plot next to some sort of winter cover is a great way to sustain a population through the nasty months. I know it is hard to just sit back and watch these birds hunt for a meal, and you can find other experts saying to feed these birds. The DNR has a different tone to it. So this spring is the time to think of the upcoming winter by planting a little food for them. We are getting closer to spring and I hope that we can avoid spring floods and the birds can have an easy nesting season to keep the population moving upward.


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