Pheasant management in small broadleaved woodlands.
The link between country sports and woodland planting and management is widely recognised.
The additional income from shooting rights has provided a motive for much woodland management. Despite this the habitat requirements of pheasants have only recently been defined, while the contribution of sporting revenue to the economics of small broadleaved woodlands has not been sufficiently highlighted.
By relating pheasant densities to the vegetation structure within a large number of small woods, the Game Conservancy's Pheasants and Woodlands Project has isolated the percentage cover at 1-2 m above ground level as the critical habitat feature for this species. Furthermore, studies of radio-marked birds have identified the preferential use of areas at or very close to woodland edges. The combination of these results allows the formulation of management regimes to increase the use of existing and newly planted woodlands by pheasants.
The benefits of these forms of management, specifically the creation of wide rides, increasing the light penetration of the canopy and coppicing, extend beyond the pheasant, to include increases in the diversity and populations of butterflies, songbirds and wildflowers. Furthermore, the increased sporting value of an estate as a result of sympathetic woodland management can provide, an annual source of income. When this is considered over the period of rotation of most broadleaved species the sporting revenue can become a substantial asset.
This paper provides preliminary results to illustrate these points and discusses the role of the pheasant in the management of small broadleaved woodlands.