Pheasant chick

David Chapman / 12 May 2010

Writer and photographer, David Chapman, on the endearing confidence of the pheasant chick



This spring we have been watching a female pheasant repeatedly disappearing into a shrubby area of our garden. I think I know what she is doing but I am still waiting to see if she eventually emerges with a brood of chicks. Even if she has I know I will have to be very lucky to see them because pheasants don’t stay at their nest for long once the eggs have hatched, unlike many more typical garden species.

The pheasant, along with partridges and ducks, is an example of a 'nidifugous' species. The word nidifugous derives from the Latin words nidus for nest and fugio meaning 'to flee', so a nidifugous species is one whose young flee the nest as soon as possible. Their young are born with eyes open and capable of running around and feeding themselves, for this reason they have to be extremely well camouflaged relying upon this for their safety when threatened.

In contrast to the pheasant, most of our familiar garden birds have young which are nidicolous, 'colo' being Latin for 'inhabit'. They are often born blind and naked; they need the warmth of their parents to survive and must live in the nest until they grow feathers and are able to fly.

My last experience with a pheasant chick was an interesting one and illustrates the confidence they have in their own camouflage. When I came face to face with this tiny bird it simply froze; it was like the music had stopped in a game of 'statues'. Luckily I had my camera with me and was able to get within a few inches of it; and still it seemed to think that I hadn’t noticed it!

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