On the prairies, you’ll find a lot of upland game birds like pheasants, sharptail grouse, and Hungarian Partridge. Other birds too, of course, like robins, meadowlarks, blackbirds, pigeons, and all sorts of hawks. I watched a large hawk circling, swooping, cruising in search of his dinner the other day. I pitied the poor creature who would become a meal for him, but hawks have to eat too. Any pheasant, grouse, or mouse out in the middle of a harvested field would have nowhere to hide from a hawk–for that matter, from any of their predators. Coyotes, too, are very hard on birds and rodents.
I was thankful for the taller growth at the edges of the wide open fields. Montana farmers are generous in leaving the borders of their fields as natural as possible.Pheasants and grouse hide in this vegetation when they feel vulnerable and then run out into the harvested fields to pick up bits of grain when they feel it is safe, seldom leaving the edges for long.
Notice the swath of “edge effect” here. This kind of edge between two types of habitat makes a travel corridor possible for many small animals.
These edges are not only practical for animals to hide in, but they’re pleasing to the eye as well. I know, I know, they’re only some thistle-like prickly flowers gone to seed, but there’s a beauty in that.
And what is going on with this plant? Is it trying to do a howling coyote impression?
This spring, and possibly again in mid-summer, somewhere in the high grasses, a hen pheasant chose a spot that she hoped could remain undiscovered for 23 or 24 days, while she laid eggs and sat on her nest.
The prairies abound in birdlife and much of it is due to local farming practices, the farmers’ awareness of their surroundings, and their caring attitude towards the upland birds that live there.