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Ring-necked Pheasant Habitat Focus Area

Ring-necked pheasant

Much of New York State's landscape no longer has the potential to produce wild ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus). Ring-necked pheasants are typically a product of agricultural lands that include small grains, fallow fields, and wetland areas that provide winter cover. The quantity of land in small grain agriculture is greatly diminished since the early 1900s, and the state is now mostly forested. Efforts such as the Breeding Bird Atlas and Spring and Summer Farmer Pheasant surveys indicate that New York's wild, self-sustaining pheasant population is largely restricted to the Great Lakes Plain in the western part of the state (see figure below). Because of this, efforts to protect, restore, and manage habitat for this species have the greatest chance of success if they are concentrated in this area.

Individually, DEC and its partners do not have the resources necessary to effectively manage for wild pheasants throughout the Lake Plains area. Therefore, we developed a focus area to concentrate current and future habitat management efforts. This will best utilize available resources to determine if maintaining or increasing wild pheasant populations is possible under current biological, social, and fiscal conditions. We feel that pooling resources, sharing information, and concentrating the efforts of government agencies, private organizations, and landowners is a more realistic and effective approach to sustaining a wild pheasant population in New York.

Using agricultural statistics, land use data, current information on pheasant distribution and abundance, and stakeholder input, we delineated a roughly 150,000-acre focus area in the Great Lakes Plain (see figure below). Based on the presence of wild pheasants and the composition of the agricultural landscape in this area, we feel that it has the greatest potential to maintain or increase wild pheasant numbers.

New York State Pheasant Habitat Focus Area

The goal of this effort is to sustain breeding populations of pheasants within the focus area. Our strategy is to: (1) work with our partners (e.g., USDA NRCS, FSA, Pheasants Forever) to provide information to landowners on ways to improve pheasant habitat and how best to use the funding available from government and non-government conservation programs to help implement some of those measures; (2) develop monitoring programs to measure the success of pheasant habitat improvements; and (3) develop guidelines for creation and enhancement of pheasant habitat and provide technical guidance (e.g., planting mixtures, mowing schedules) to promote interest among landowners to manage pheasant habitat within the focus area.

Monitoring Pheasant Populations

If you farm land in Livingston, Genesee, Wyoming, or Monroe counties, consider participating in the Farmer-Pheasant Inventory. If you do not farm, but you would like to contribute your pheasant observations, join the Summer Pheasant Sighting Survey (get survey form below).

Farmer-Pheasant Inventory

Farmers in the 13 counties that comprise the Lake Plains of New York have partnered with the department since 1945 to help survey wild pheasant populations. We are pleased to continue this effort in the Pheasant Habitat Focus Area in the Genesee Valley. Surveys like this one will help us monitor the response of pheasant populations to habitat management efforts. No special observations are required; just those made during your normal spring and summer farming activities.

If you are a farmer in Livingston, Genesee, Wyoming, or Monroe county and are interested in participating in the Spring Pheasant Inventory (April) or the Summer Pheasant Inventory (August), please contact us at (518) 402-8886, by e-mail, or by writing to "Farmer-Pheasant Inventory", NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754.

Summer Pheasant Sighting Survey

During the month of August, survey participants record the sex and age of all pheasants observed during normal travel in Livingston, Genesee, Wyoming, and Monroe counties. This survey will help estimate pheasant production (number of young per adult female pheasant), and over the long-term will help evaluate the success of habitat management efforts in the focus area.

If you would like to participate, you can print or download a Summer Pheasant Sighting Survey (PDF) (252 KB).

Completed surveys can be returned via mail (see address above) or e-mail (as a PDF attachment).

Habitat Conservation Assistance Program

If you are interested in learning more about this program, read the following summary or e-mail us:

Grasslands for Wildlife (GFW) - The goal of this DEC program is to establish grassland habitat demonstration areas within the Pheasant Habitat Focus Area. Activities include purchasing $10,000 of warm- and cool-season grass seed annually and distributing it to private landowners to establish grasslands; establishing grasslands 5-40 acres in size; forming partnerships with organizations interested in pheasants and other grassland wildlife; and increasing public awareness of the value of grasslands for pheasants and other grassland wildlife. Site selection is based on public access to the site, public viewing, length of contract (5 or 10 years), potential to increase pheasants, and proximity to other cover or food sources. The site must have at least a one-year history of weed control. Once the best sites are selected, the landowner works with DEC to create a maintenance plan and signs a cooperative agreement.

The following links will take you off the DEC website:

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Farm Service Agency (FSA)

Pheasants Forever