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Chinese ringneck pheasant becomes the South Dakota state bird in 1943 | SD History

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Argus Leader
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Newspapers.com
Excerpt of the Argus Leader from February 13th, 1943

On February 13th, 1943, the Chinese ring-necked pheasant became the official state bird of South Dakota.

Pheasants were introduced to South Dakota in 1908 near Doland in Spink County. Some claim they were introduced 10 years earlier, but breeding pairs were not established. However, the history of the pheasant goes back much further.

Archeological evidence suggests that large pheasants lived in southern France some 13 million years ago. The Greeks knew the bird in the 10th Century B.C. and the Greek name has been adopted for the species “Phasianus ornis” (Fasian-us Or-Nis). The Chinese knew about the pheasant some 3,000 years ago, however, the Romans are considered responsible for the spread of pheasants in western Europe. When Julius Caesar invaded England in the first century B.C., the pheasant followed.

Argus 4.png
Argus Leader
/
Newspapers.com
Excerpt of the Argus Leader from October 14, 1919

It wasn't until 1733 that the pheasant appeared in North America. Several pairs of the black-necked strain were introduced in New York. Other pheasant varieties were released in New Hampshire and New Jersey. The first population to gain a foothold was released in Oregon in 1881.

The pheasant population we know in South Dakota is traced to the birds released in Spink County in 1908. Subsequently, the state purchased and released thousands of birds around the state over the next decade. By 1935, the pheasant population in South Dakota was estimated at 12 Million. The population is less today, but many soil conservation programs have stabilized available habitats. The first hunting season was in 1919. It was allowed in Spink County and for one day only.

But on February 13th, 1943, the Ring-Neck Pheasant was named the state bird of South Dakota.

Production help is provided by Doctor Brad Tennant, Professor of History at Presentation College.