In writing about The History of Britains Birds
in the September 2002 issue of Birds of Britain
, Steve Portugal briefly discussed the history of bird introductions in that country:
Mans main influence has been in his tendency to introduce foreign species, either for commercial, shooting or ornamental purposes, and it's easy to forget which species are native and those which are not. The first species to be introduced into the wild is thought to be the Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) before 1886. From the thirteenth to the eighteenth century they were the property of the crown, assigned to others by license and marked with distinguishing features but not confined. The Canada and Egyptian Geese were introduced around the same time, thought to be 1678. It's not clear whether they were introduced as a food source or for ornamental purposes, but introductions were successful and the species are still present today.
Pheasants and Partridges are a group of birds that have had a wide range of species introduced both for ornamental purposes and sport. The Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) was brought over by the Norman's in the eleventh century and soon dispersed around the country, being introduced to parts of Wales, Scotland and Ireland in the late sixteenth century. By the early nineteenth century they had become the most important game bird. In 1673 Charles the second released a number of Red-legged Partridges (Alectoris rufa) at Windsor, brought over from France with the purpose of increasing the targets for guns. However, whilst the introduction was a success, the bird did not live up to its sporting expectations, as it has a tendency to run for long distances as opposed to taking flight! The Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) introduced in the 1830's and the Lady Amherst Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) around 1930, were released purely for ornamental purposes. Both species have small but stable populations, their sedentary nature preventing any further spread. Other species introduced include Little Owl (Athene noctua) in 1870, Gadwall (Anas strepera) in 1850 and Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) in 1950.
Labels: Britain, introduced birds, partridges, pheasants