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Late last February I looked out and saw a male pheasant in our garden. We live on a castle estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and besides the castle, there are about 7 houses, spread randomly across its 700 acres. We choose to live in very isolated places for the safety of our two cats who enjoy going out during the day and they come in at night except for over peak summer when we have only about two hours of partial darkness.
Rusty, so named jokingly, came into the garden about the end of last February. He's identifiable based on the pattern of his collar and his voice. Anyone who lives near pheasants knows while they all sound similar, they do have "voices" and Rusty's reminds me of a turkey with a sore throat. He lives across a dirt path across the bottom of our garden and he always hops up on the stone garden wall, announces his arrival, and then spends several hours here if the weather is good, he enjoys sleeping under a pine that literally looks like a fifty foot Christmas tree. My cats avoid him which is funny in itself.
Rusty eventually started bringing "the wife" around occasionally but he started with random visits to scoop up any wild garden bird seed around and now he is here at least 2-3 times a day enjoying currants and dried mealworms, he likes occasional cranberries and suet crumbles with worms. He'll eat about anything actually.
The castle owner released approximately 40 farmed pheasants for a shoot in December and my panic and worry began. I looked out in my garden and all of them seemed to be here, and off in the distance, avoiding the group like the plague, was Rusty. Sadly the hunt they hosted took most of the birds, actually it was over two hunts. This last Saturday, the 30th of January, I saw a man, who was on his own with a little black poodle, walking past our house. Our house is hard to miss and I have a neighbour across the way who was packing up as she is moving house. She asked him where he was off to and he said AND THIS IS WORRYING, that the castle owner said he had someone drop of 12 females on Friday. I SAW those females, my husband and I counted TWELVE and someone at Hunt Saboteur said they couldn't "drop" birds after mid December. The man lives on the estate and I don't know what he got, we heard him shoot two attempts with six shots each. I have not seen the females since Friday.
My first concern was ALL of the pheasants, sadly I hadn't seen Rusty in about 3 days so I did worry. Just had to get through Saturday. Where was he? I walked upstairs during this man's shoot and saw a male pheasant fly opposite of the shots and I exhaled. No other males, except a pair of males seen randomly, have been around. Later on Saturday, we spotted Rusty eating dinner in the garden. He's now so comfortable he'll come to the top of the garden and OFTEN sits in the tree, on a nice branch surrounded by pines, outside our master bedroom windows.
I am grateful he made it through hunting season. It seems the pair of males that are never apart, survived as well. His nemesis seems to be the local jackdaws. Because Rusty travels alone, the jackdaws seem to harass him out of our garden. I love all nature but these jackdaws first tried to destroy our chimney, then lived in a tree over my husband's car and made a Jackson Pollock painting out of it by pooping all over. I hate that after almost a year, they're still harassing a solitary pheasant.
"Rust" is easily now over a year old. We think he's wild because he has managed to avoid crowds of pheasants, actually yells if others go near him when others were around. I do my best to make the garden a shelter for him at night. He enjoys sleeping across the way where there's a small, abandoned chapel and a stream that provides a good water supply. I know this is a LONG message, but anyone know how long a guy like this might live. I've read a year or two, but he's been on the estate over a year and my neighbour said he'd been around over the previous summer and I heard him, but never saw him. I don't know when they mate, but given he's been around about a year, he was full grown then as well, I gotta wonder if his natural days are numbered. He's winter fat, beautiful, and healthy looking. He eats well and I guess I'm sharing the story but asking any info that might help. Cheers to all, stay, safe... spring can't come too soon.
Hi Cari, lovely photo and nice to hear your story about Rusty; glad he survived the recent shooting season; from what I understand they breed anytime from now to May, hence the shooting of them has to pause. We also had a cock pheasant visit our woodland garden a few years ago and he became a regular visitor who would enjoy the bird seed mix that we put down for him; I remember seeing him for around three years but average lifespan is 1 - 2 years average. We also nicknamed this pheasant visitor "Percy" but sadly it wasn't guns that got him in the end but the nasty disease called Trichomoniasis when I had to call the RSPCA to collect him so they could humanely euthanise him before he suffered a long disease which would result in slow starvation due to the parasite blocking the gullet. A wild bird but it was still an upsetting day when we had to say farewell to him as you get used to seeing them in the garden. I hope Rusty lives the longest life he can and avoids both guns and disease, good luck and thanks for the lovely photo and story
I found an old post where I put photos of Percy pheasant for you to see. He must have been showing off that day in order to attract a female !!
"Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again"
Hi Cari, welcome from Caithness up at the top of Scotland. I live in the country and have an estate about a mile away. We have had pheasants come to the garden over the years we have been here. At one point we had mum, dad and 8 youngsters, then some time after when they grew up, we had 12, so some had joined them! Recently we had mum, dad and 3 chicks who have now grown up. I think it is the mum that will happily feed a few feet away. At one time we had a male who was very friendly and would hand feed, he even trotted into the garage whilst I got his food. Thank goodness it is only aroun£9 for a 20kg sack of mixed grain! I have always called the males Percy, he decided to arrive in the hour on Sunday, that I was doing my Garden Birdwatch, clever boy. Thank you for the story, hope Rusty stays with you for a while yet.
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