Saturday, July 29, 2017

Matching Birds to the Habitat

Hungarian Patridge Ohio

Climate change debates aside, the environment has changed radically in the last 150 years in North America when immigrant species arrive. The first of these and most disruptive are obviously humans. From farming to controlling fires to altering river beds the impact can't be ignored. In Ohio, and western Ohio specifically, a change was profound and impacted a number of game birds.

This is taken from the Ohio Journal of Science, March 1956. "Ohio was originally 95 percent forested. Today a relatively small percentage of the state is in forest. This drastic change in landscape naturally affects the game of the state. The wild turkey and prairie chicken disappeared; the ruffed grouse became scarce and is presently restricted to southeastern and eastern Ohio; the bobwhite quail expanded its range, and none of the prairie grouse immigrated from the west into the newly created open lands of Ohio."

The turkey has obviously made a comeback, while ruffed grouse have decidedly not. Habitat plays the deciding factor, but that's not the complete story. If anybody is left that Regals in the glories of bobwhite quail hunting in the old days, they should know the actual truth: "The bob white quail is close to its northern limit in Ohio; it has never consistently occurred in large numbers in this state, and it has been protected from hunting since 1912."

The Hungarian Partridge in Ohio

The solution then was the introduction of non-native species that adapt to the habitat. Specifically ring-necked pheasants and Hungarian partridge. The ring-necked proved adaptable and became well-established and self-sustaining. Covey Hungarian did for a time, then dropped off. They seem to thrive in the west on big spaces. It would be interesting to see how they could adapt to the modern farming practices today around western Ohio that create huge expanses of open spaces.

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