Maine is home to a wide variety of birds, and even those that don’t typically live here can sometimes be found making a quick stopover.
Recently BDN staffer Sam Schipani spotted an unlikely bird — a ring-necked pheasant — on Mount Hope Avenue in Bangor.
I knew the Penobscot County Conservation Association in Brewer used to raise the birds, some 30 or 40 years ago, which they’d then use to provide hunting opportunity for club members. Could the Mount Hope bird be a remnant of that population of pheasants?
I reached out to wildlife biologist Brad Allen of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to get his take on the matter, and figure out where a bird like a pheasant, which isn’t native to the area, would end up here during the winter.
“[It wasn’t] a remnant from years past,” Allen said. “More likely it was an escapee from an individual whose hobby is to raise birds, or from a bird dog owner who might use pheasants in dog training.”
Allen said that even during mild winters, the weather is not favorable for pheasants here in Maine, and they’d not be likely to survive the winter if they stayed here.
Allen said he often receives evidence of odd birds from Mainers looking for answers.
“I never really know where [the birds] come from, but people send me a photo of a chukar at their bird feeder every year,” he said.
Allen said that pheasants are still raised and released in York and Cumberland counties and some of those birds might survive the hunting season and “persist for awhile.” That kind of activity doesn’t take place in Penobscot County.
According to the Peterson Field guide to Birds of North America, the ring-necked pheasant’s habitat includes farms, fields, marsh edges, brush and grassy roadsides. Not included on that list: paved neighborhoods in Maine’s third-largest city.
But there it was.
The sighting wasn’t all that rare. A couple years ago a friend who lives in Orrington sent me a photo of a pheasant on his lawn. Allen has seen some in Bangor as well.
“We’ve occasionally had pheasants here around our office [off Mount Hope Avenue], and I’ve seen a flock that I thought may have been a brood get smacked by cars on the interstate by the [Bangor] Mall,” Allen said. “So there seems to be some around.”