Pure Manchurians from China
After 3 years of planning and with the assistance of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, we were able to import a shipment of Ringneck pheasant eggs from China in June of 1989. The eggs were collected near Changchun City, which is in the Jilin Province(northeast China, north of North Korea). The latitude of where the eggs were collected is 45 degrees north of the equator, virtually the same latitude as the northern states of the United States. For example, Mitchell, SD, Madison, WI, Eugene, OR, and Syracuse, NY are all the same latitude as where these eggs were laid. Checking the Rand McNally World Atlas, we found that the area these birds existed in has a temperature range of 20 degrees below zero in the winter and up to 100 degrees above zero in the summer. Snow and rainfall are similar to the upper Midwestern U.S. The primary crops grown in the area are corn and soybeans. The people who collected the eggs indicated that most of the eggs were found along the borders between cropland and brushy forested areas. These people also reported that the pheasants are part of the local diet, but they are very hard to catch.
The shipment of eggs arrived in Beijing airport one day after the massacre at Tianaman Square, and sat at the airport for one week before finally proceeding. By the time the shipment arrived in Chicago, some of the eggs were one month old. We were concerned whether any of the 1,200 eggs would hatch. We were ecstatic when 25 days later we had over 400 newly hatched truly Chinese pheasants! After exhaustive testing (over 300 separate samples were taken) and a 30-day waiting period, APHIS (a U.S. government department responsible for regulating the importation of plants and animals into the U. S.) declared the chicks to be completely healthy and released them from the quarantine facility to be brought to our farm. We built a new brooder house and pen for them one mile from our main farm and there they have thrived.
The birds are all that we had hoped for and more - first of all, their size and appearance is similar to what we have sold for years as a Chinese Ringneck, whereas their behavior appears to us to be much more wild. There are a few distinctions in appearance though. The cock pheasants' rings are broader than most any pheasants we have seen, and the cocks also have a small distinctive white feather on the sides of their heads near the ear. Their saddles are blue-green and their flanks are yellow like the birds we have had for years. The hens are similar in size and shape to our hens, but their color is more golden and their heads are different in conformation. Both the hens and cocks have a very erect posture, similar to an Afghan-Whitewing. The birds are very skittish (even when they were just a few days old they ran to the far corner of the brooder house when someone opened the door) and they flush repeatedly when you enter their pen.
We intend to keep the bloodline pure by breeding all the imported hens with about 15 of the imported cocks - we will not sell any pure stock to anyone. The additional imported cocks we have we will breed onto our own Ringneck hen pheasants - producing crossbred chicks that should retain much of the wild behavior of their fathers. In fact we have been told that wildness is 60% - 70% heritable. We hope that these crossbred chicks prove to be a key in repopulating former pheasant range where the habitat has been restored but there are no pheasants.
We were successful in importing another shipment of Manchurian Ringneck eggs from China in 1990. The eggs were again collected near Changchun City, which is in the Jilin Province. This year 2,940 eggs were received promptly and in excellent condition. We entered into cooperative agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - they handled the hatching and quarantine facility. Over 1,700 chicks hatched (an excellent hatch considering how far the eggs traveled). After the chicks passed through the 30 day quarantine, there were still over 1,600 chicks. The Wisconsin D.N.R. split the flock with our farm (we each got 800+ birds). The Wisconsin D.N.R. plans on evaluating the potential of these new pheasants through selective releases over the next few year. We had a release here on our farm of pure strain Manchurian Ringnecks - but it wasn't planned! On December 3, 1990, a strong blizzard occurred and it blew a gate off our Manchurian pen. When the blizzard subsided we discovered that about 500 of the 800 pheasants in the pens had escaped. We were lucky to catch 300 over the next few days, but the remaining 200 have rebuffed our repeated attempts at capture. They are surviving well. We learned more about their behavior through this experience. We found that they roost in trees at night and also got repeated first-hand glances at their powerful flight.
We first sold a cross of the pure Manchurian Ringneck cocks and our own Ringneck hens in 1990. We hatched over 40,000 of these chicks and had only positive responses from our customers. We found that the cross produced a very hardy, vigorous bird, and that the wildness was very apparent when they were chicks, as well as when they were full grown. In 2002, we hatched over 295,000 cross chicks. The popularity of this unique bird continues to grow. As in the past, we have had only positive responses to this exceptional bird.