The list of upland game birds is a long one, including the ptarmigan, chukar and snipe. But if you want to increase your chances of seeing a game bird, go looking for some of the more common species like pheasants, turkeys, grouse and woodcocks. They won't disappoint you in looks or behavior.
Oregon lays claim to America's first successful introduction of ring-necked pheasants. The birds were brought over from China in 1882 and flourish in farm country where they feast on grains and seeds. Brilliantly-colored males have greenish-black heads with white neck rings and red eye patches. Females' mottled brown coloring helps them blend in with the grasslands -- their favorite nesting spot. You can spot them pecking at rocks along gravel roads; the grit helps them digest food.
Like their domestic cousins, wild turkeys are large birds. Males can weigh over 20 lbs and females tip the scales around 10 lbs. Their large size makes them easy to spot in the early evening when they roost in trees and during the morning when flocks work over grassy areas in search of tasty insects. You might also see a male stretching his brightly colored head and fanning his tail feathers in hopes of attracting a female.
There are a wide variety of grouse including ruffed, sharp-tailed, sage, spruce and blue, but the most unusual of the bunch is arguably the prairie chicken. Unlike the wild turkey who regally struts his stuff, the much smaller male prairie chickens whoop and cackle as they jump and fight each other for the right to mate. Males fill the bright orange sacs on the sides of their heads with air, stomp their feet and charge at each other, in a behavior called booming.
The woodcock is a shy little bird (weighing as little as 6 oz.) with a 2-inch bill that gives a "peent" sound, bobs its head and spirals 200 feet into the air. Look for this performance in an open meadow, around twilight in the early spring. After mating, a female woodcock will build a nest in the ground and leads predators away by pretending to have a broken wing.
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