Yongsan Safari: Ring-necked pheasants
A ring-necked pheasant looks for dinner July 20 behind the U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan headquarters building on South Post. The colorful creatures have made Yongsan their home in the middle of a sprawling megacity.

<strong>YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea</strong> - If you have taken an early morning stroll around Garrison Yongsan's housing areas, you may have come across one of its more exotic feathered friends: the ring-necked pheasant.

So what are pheasants doing in the middle of one of the largest megacities in the world' The garrison's Chief Environmental Officer Richard Mauser says it's all about location, location, location.

"Somehow, perhaps by Chinese travelers hundreds of years ago, the pheasant made it to Seoul from China, where the bird originates," he said. "The garrison is a green oasis in the middle of the city, so naturally creatures seek refuge here. Ring-necked pheasants require a grassy, woodland type of place to reside in. Therefore, one can find them on Yongsan Garrison, for there are many grassy areas on South Post that they can live at conveniently."

Indeed, Yongsan Garrison as seen from Google Earth looks more like New York City's Central Park than a sprawling military facility. The fact that Yongsan has many green spaces makes it the perfect place for birds to frolic, Mauser explained.

And frolic they do. According to Mauser's estimates, there are about 30 ring-necked pheasants living on the installation. During a recent excursion with Mauser and a local Seoul newspaper photographer, your correspondent observed at least three baby chicks, two adult females, and one adult male.

Casual observers may quickly determine a pheasant's gender by its colors, Mauser says. "The male ring-necked pheasant is much more colorful and appealing to the eye than the female pheasant, for the female ring-necked pheasant is primarily tan with many black feathers while the male has a red patch around its eyes, a greenish black neck, and a mixture of colors on its body."

When asked if the pheasants living on Yongsan are the same kind one may see in the United States, Mauser says they are, but they had a little help from an American diplomat getting to America.

"The Ring-necked or Chinese Pheasant is a native of Asia, but by one account, they appeared in the United States after an American diplomat brought 60 Chinese Pheasants from Shanghai, China to Port Townsend, Washington in the 1800s," he said.

Those wishing to catch a glimpse of the pheasants on Yongsan will need a little luck and good a spotting area. Mauser says some of the best spots are around the Matta Avenue picnic area; in grassy-wood area behind the old prison and along the walk-way that leads to 7th Division Road; and around the 4400 area and 9th Corps Blvd. Pheasants may be seen in other areas on South Post, but less frequently, and no pheasants have been spotted on Main Post.

Mauser says Yongsan Garrison is full of wildlife for those who seek it, all one has to do is take a moment to open their eyes to it.

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Page last updated Thu August 13th, 2009 at 01:30