An important new study has highlighted the importance of a naturalistic diet for pheasant chicks reared in captivity. The study, initiated and supported by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) shows that young chicks fed mixed seed and live mealworms are more likely to survive once released into the wild than pheasants reared with standard chick pellets.
The study was carried out my Dr Mark Whiteside at the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour at the University of Exeter, using 1,800 pheasant chicks to test how diet impacts on the survival capabilities of reared pheasants.
Dr Whiteside found that chicks reared on a more naturalistic diet showed distinctly improved survival skills, such as quickly catching live crickets and foraging for food, compared to chicks fed with a commercially-used chick crumb diet.
“Poor survival is such a common problem in released pheasants,” said Professor Joah Madden from the Pheasant Ecology and Cognition group at the University of Exeter. “Having the ability to acquire and assimilate food from the wild produces a more adaptive diet and foraging strategy, resulting in a subsequent improvement in survival. Ultimately, this means that wastage is reduced and fewer pheasants need to be released each year, whilst still maintaining an economically viable level for shooting.”
Dr Whiteside and Professor Madden will be attending the CLA Game Fair at Harewood House this year. They will be on hand at the GWCT stand to explain the science behind this new study. The research paper is available to read in the Journal of Animal Ecology.