National Geographic : 1915 Aug
WILLOW PTARMIGAN (Lagopus lagopus lagopus). Range: Breeds from northern Alaska, northern Banks Land, and central Green land south to eastern Aleutian Islands, central Mackenzie, central Keewatin, James Bay, and southern Ungava; south in winter to northern British Columbia, Saskatchewan Valley, Minnesota, Ontario, and Quebec. To make the acquaintance of the willow ptarmigan in its chosen home one must visit the open tundras on the borders of Bering Sea and the Arctic coast. Though not known to breed south of Labrador, the bird migrates in winter to the St. Lawrence, and occasionally a straggler crosses our own boundary. In Alaska in autumn willow ptarmigan unite in great flocks, numbering thousands, and migrate to the neighborhood of the Yukon and its tributaries, finding there both food and shelter. During the winter ptarmigan play an important role in the life of both the Eskimo and the Indian and are snared and shot in great numbers, often indeed forming the natives' only resource against the ever-recurring periods of want and even famine. On the Kaviak Peninsula the Eskimo have taken advan tage of the habitual low flight of the bird-only a few feet above the surface-to net them in a curious way. Nelson thus describes it: "Taking a long and medium fine-meshed fishing net they spread it by fastening cross-pieces to it at certain distances; then taking their places just at sunset in early November or the last of October, on a low, open valley or 'swale,' extending north and south, they stretch the net across the middle of this highway, with a man and sometimes two at each cross-piece, while the women and children conceal themselves behind the neighbor ing clumps of bushes. As twilight advances the net is raised and held upright. Ere long the flocks of ptarmigan are seen approaching, skimming along close to the snow-covered earth in the dim twilight, and a moment later, as the first birds come in contact with the obstacle, the men press the net down upon the snow S sometimes securing fifty to sixty birds." RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus torquatus). Range: First introduced from China into the United States near Portland, Oregon, in 1881. At present established in many other localities, including the following: Puget Sound; Vancouver Island; British Columbia; Cape Cod, Massa chusetts; Genesee Valley, New York; and Jekyll Island, Georgia. This splendid game bird is a native of China, whence it has been introduced into British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California, and less successfully in eastern United States. From the first the bird throve wonderfully in Ore gon, as introduced game rarely does, and to-day it is probably the most abundant game bird in that State. The pheasant has not escaped censure on the score of its damage to crops, and it is undoubtedly true that it has a keen appetite for corn, peas, grain, and even potatoes. The introduction of a large game bird like the pheasant into our domains is very different from the introduction of a small species like the Eng lish sparrow. Unlike the damage done by the sparrow, the mischief of the pheasant can be checked at any time desired by simply extending the open season. Pheasants, however, are naturally hardy and prolific, and once established in a region need only reasonable protection to insure their perpetuation for all time. WHITE-TAILED PTARMIGAN (Lagopus leucurus leucurus). Range: Rocky Mountains from northern British Columbia and central Alberta south to Vancouver Island, Washington, northwestern Montana, Colorado, and northern New Mexico. This hardy ptarmigan, including itsRocky Mountain representative, isan inhabitant of the mountain tops above timber line, and here itlives contentedly summer and winter. Havingfew foes tocontend with, and man being only a casual visitor to its fastnesses,itislikely tocontinue indefinitely itslonely life among frowning rocks and glistening glaciers. Their mottled plumage insummer and their white robes in winter greatly aidthe ptarmigan intheir hard struggle for existence, and to some extent atleast the birds appear torealize their invisi bility. Thus, the members ofaflock when surprised will often remain motion less as though depending on their likeness totheir surroundings forimmunity. Though protected by law, the.best protection forthe ptarmigan isitsprotective coloration and its habitat, soremote from the bounds ofthe arch enemy, man. May they long continue to insure this timid and inoffensive bird immunity. As is well known, as winter approaches the ptarmigan changes itsplumage from a much-mixed dress of rufous, black, and white, toasnowy white. The summer dress is very inconspicuous among the vegetation which the bird frequents, while white winter robes renderitno less inconspicuous when the earth iscarpeted with snow. Such is one of themany ways inwhich Mother Nature provides for the safety of her wards. WILD TURKEY(Meleagris gallopavo silvestris). Range: Eastern United States from Nebraska, Kansas, western Oklahoma, and eastern Texas east to central Pennsylvania, and south tothe Gulf coast. America may well be proud ofthis, the King ofallgame birds. Wherever found, the turkey was originally very plentiful, being sufficiently intelligent and wary to hold its own against theIndian and itsnumerous natural enemies, particu larly the wild cat and cougar.As recently asthelate eighties Iknew ofaflock that had ranged for at least ten years not farfrom the banks ofthe Potomac within sight of the Capitol dome. Nature has furnished the turkey apair ofstout legs that enable it to range daily over awide extent ofhill and valley initssearch for seeds, grasshoppers, insects,and berries. Inclined totrust toitslegs when con fronted by danger, it either dashes offatfull speed orsneaks quietly away through the bushes, although when forced toflyitspowerful wings carry itatarapid rate. It roosts in the tops of huge trees and this habit isastrong factor forsafety. In the seventies I found turkeysvery numerous onthe headwaters ofthe Gila in Arizona, and as they probablynever had been hunted they were almost astame as barnyard fowls. One might easily have killed awagon-load inaday. To what extent the Aztecs had domesticated the wild turkey before the coming ofthe Spaniard is not known, but undoubtedly itwas kept incaptivity and had been known to the Montezumas forcenturies. Itisinteresting tonote that the turkey originally introduced into Europe from Mexico bythe Spaniard was adifferent subspecies from our eastern wild turkey. Subsequently, the Mexican bird was reintroduced into America, particularly the Eastern States, from Europe. Easily domesticated, our wild turkeyeven more readily drops itsacquired habits and reassumes its primitive mode oflife. Thus inseveral ofthe Hawaiian Islands the forests have been stocked withdomesticated birds which, after aseason ortwo, became as wild as ever.