Micro-Season: “The Pheasant First Calls”

We have entered the micro-season of “The Pheasant First Calls”. This is the third micro-season of the mini-season Minor Cold.  All the micro-seasons within Minor Cold are:

These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others.  No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration of the world around you. 

To celebrate this season, we will learn about pheasants and read haiku by Basho, Issa, and Buson. 


Pheasants

The term “pheasant” refers to about 50 different species of birds within the Galliformes order.  Birds in this order are described as heavy, ground-feeding birds, and include turkey, chicken, and quail.(1,2) Pheasants are usually larger than quails but smaller than wild turkeys. 

Pheasants are sexually dimorphic. What this means is that there is a significant difference between certain characteristics of males and females. Both plants and animals can be sexually dimorphic.(3)

In pheasants, the males are usually larger, with brightly colored plumage and longer tail feathers.  The females are smaller and usually brown in color. (1)We can easily see this difference when comparing pictures of the male and female Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus).  The male has copper-and-gold plumage, a white collar, and a red face.  The female is brown and black.  



The Green Pheasant

The Green Pheasant (Phasianus versicolor) is also known as the Japanese Green Pheasant. This species is native to Japan and became the country’s national bird in 1947.(4)  The Green Pheasant is said to have the ability to sense minor earth tremors that come before larger earthquakes.  Because of this ability, these birds are credited with saving many lives before the invention of the seismograph.(4)

The Pheasant’s Call

The Green Pheasant’s call is described as “a harsh double-honk, similar to (and perhaps indistinguishable from) that of the Common Pheasant.”(5) In the United States, the Ring-necked Pheasant is also known as the Common Pheasant.

Pheasants may call throughout the day.  However, they are more frequently heard at dawn and at dusk during the spring.  Spring calls are usually associated with the male pheasant trying to claim territory.  Some other reasons for pheasant calls are alarm or distress.(6)  Below is a sample of the calls of the Green Pheasant and Common Pheasant.

Green Pheasant (Phasianus versicolor) · song, wing beats/credit Anon Torimi
Yodo River, Hirakata City, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
Call of the Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)/credit United States National Park Service

Seasonal haiku

Although the Pheasant, or kiji, can be found in Japan throughout the year, it is considered a spring kigo.(7)  

In the World Kigo Database, Dr. Gabi Greves tells us that the pheasant is “a good omen, prowess and daring, since he eats poisonous snakes.”(7)  Dr. Greves also tell us that the pheasant was “a companion to Momotaro, the Peach Boy.”(7)  

The tale of Momotaro, the Peach Boy, is a popular piece of Japanese folklore. In this story, a young boy goes off to defeat a band of demons that are threatening his home.  On his way to the demons, he makes friends with a talking dog, a monkey, and a pheasant that offer to help him defeat the demons in exchange for food.  Momotaro and his new friends are successful in their quest and return home with the demon treasure and the demon chief as a captive. (8) 

Now, with all this in mind, let’s read some haiku.

Basho

for my father and mother
I yearn so deeply- 
a pheasant’s cry. 
(translated by David Landis Barnhill)
hearing they eat snakes, 
it’s unnerving to listen 
to the pheasant’s cry
(translated by Sam Hamill) 
within the skylark’s song -
 the distinct rhythm of 
the pheasants’ cry
(translated by Sam Hamill)

Issa

mingling
with the thunder--
a pheasant's cry
(translated by David G. Lanoue)
hilltop pheasant
are you jealous of the heron's
style?
(translated by David G. Lanoue)
the pheasant cries
as if catching sight
of a mountain
(translated by David G. Lanoue)

Buson

these barren hills -
where is it hidden
the call of a pheasant
(translated by Gabi Greve)
stepping on
a copper pheasant's tail -
spring sunset
(translated by Haldane)

Haiku Invitation

This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu that references a bird that is currently residing in your area.  

If you are farther north, you may only have a few non-migratory birds. If you are farther south, you may have some winter visitors to write about. When you are writing your piece, think about any cultural connections these birds may have and how you use that to your benefit in your haiku.  

Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post. I can’t wait to read what you write!  


Resources:

  1. “Pheasant”; Wikipedia 
  2. “Pheasant”; Britannica 
  3. “Sexual dimorphism”; Wikipedia
  4. “The National Bird of Japan-Pheasant”; JapanCityTour.com
  5. “Green-pheasant”; birdfinding.info
  6. “Ring-necked Pheasant-Life History”; AllAboutBirds.org
  7. “Pheasant (kiji)”; World Kigo Database
  8. “Momotarō” Wikipedia


Basho’s haiku were retrieved from “Matsuo Bashō’s haiku poems in romanized Japanese with English translations” Editor: Gábor Terebess.  Issa’s haiku were retrieved from David G. Lanoue’s Haiku Guy.  Buson’s haiku were retrieved from the World Kigo Database.

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44 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “The Pheasant First Calls”

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    1. Hi Goff, I am glad you enjoyed the post and wonderful job with your haiku. I was wondering if I may have gone a little too specific this time around. Thanks again for sharing your work!

      1. Maybe you are right Mark. Thanks My Friend for your comments. I will take them on board. Maybe a little more abstract. No guarantee. I write what I feel. I feel what I write. Have a great day my Friend.

      2. Hi Goff, just a quick clarification. I think I may have gone to specific in my prompt. Not you! I so appreciated your work. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

      3. Hi Mark. No problem. It is good to have constructive comments that make one think and reassess ones writing. That is the way to make progress. Have a great day my Friend.

  1. blue sky short sleeves
    winter peers from holly
    hermit thrush

    The Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) breeds in the northern forests but spends winter here in NC. Reclusive LGB, hiding in the bushes, even more rarely I’ve heard one sing before he departs in the spring. Mystery!
    When we went to the NC Zoo this winter the primates were cool but the Hermit Thrush we saw was a bonus — here’s a photo: https://griffinpoetry.com/2023/01/20/never-come-down/

    1. This is so great! I appreciate the haiku, the information about the Hermit Thrush, and the link to the photo. It always nice to hear the stories behind the haiku moments. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend.

  2. I have memories of walking across fields in Wisconsin and have pheasants explosively fly up from grass, startling me. Thank you for all that wonderful information, Mark. Here’s my haiku:

    this past week a first
    wee Bushtits ate from my hand
    featherlight joy

    1. Hi Tracy, I really like the haiku and what a great experience that must have been. It is amazing that the little birds can be so trusting of us humans!
      Thanks so sharing. Have a great weekend!

      1. Your comment made me notice two things about my comment:

        It should read “…having pheasants…”

        And the last line of the haiku is missing a syllable and should read “a featherlight joy”

        Oy. 🙂

      2. That happens sometimes! No worries. Also, I like “featherlight joy” as a last line. It still works without the “a”.

  3. whooping crane
    comes in for a landing
    the rarest of sights

    I grew up near the Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge in New Mexico. The endangered Whooping Crane spent winters there (as did many many migratory birds). Back then, there were only about 75 left, and they were on the verge of extinction. Happily, there are now almost 600.

    1. Hi Eavonka, Thank you so much for sharing these facts about the Whooping Crane, its winter habitat, and your haiku. I always enjoy reading the story behind the haiku. Thanks again for sharing your thoughtful work. Have a good weekend!

  4. Always a student that aims to please, hear is my contribution this week:

    Spring snow melts quickly
    sunlight brings cardinals out
    —winter monastics— 

    Although cardinals are seven states’ official bird, and they often attend bird feeders year round, they’re rarely seen in winter otherwise. They only seem to sing when the sun is shining. 🙂

    1. This is fantastic! I didn’t know that cardinals only sang when the sun was shining and that the are official birds for seven states. I also like the winter monastics line. This give a little tie back to the Catholic roots of the cardinals name. Thanks so much for sharing this week!

      1. Thanks, Mark, and you’re welcome. I don’t know if singing only in the sunshine is a scientific fact, but it’s been my subjective observation. 🙂

  5. Lovely, Mark! I accidentally scared my dog when I played the pheasant calls. Hahaha. We have pheasant’s here in WA state just for hunting purposes. It was first introduced in 1883! I didn’t know any of this until I looked it up on the state Fish and Wildlife website, thanks to your post about them.

    1. Hi Melanie, That is too funny about your dog. I think my dog is used to us playing bird calls in the house that she now just turns her head to see if it is something she should worry about. Interesting that the pheasant was introduced in 1883 for hunting purposes. I wonder if there were any unintended consequences because of that. It is always a possibility with bringing in non-native species. Thanks for the comment! Have a good weekend.

      1. We have plenty of bobcats, coyotes and other birds and animals that think they taste delicious. If the Fish & Wildlife dept stopped farming and releasing them for hunters I imagine they would go extinct here in less than ten years. They’re one of the few non-native species we have to worry about!

    1. Hi Nan, This is a wonderful seasonal haiku and the rest of the post on your website is great. Thanks so much for joining the conversation! Have a good week.

      1. Thank you, Mark. I just got back late Friday night so yesterday was the first time I have looked at emails in about a week. On the other hand, watching all the robins flock to the crab-apple tree was delightful.

        Have a great week.

  6. Beautiful image and taken from real life, according to your blog. I can see all these colors contrasting with the snow. Just lovely. There are also some robins who remain all winter, even in the Midwest!

    1. Hi Mary Jo, I agree that Nancy’s haiku is great. I didn’t even think about the contrast of the red apples, red robins, white snow, and brown tree. What a scene!

    2. Mary Jo,
      Thanks, it was taken from real life. My husband snapped several photos of the robins, and I just enjoyed them flying in and out. The reds of the crab-apples and the breasts of the robins really stood out against the snow and the tree.
      After I wrote the haiku, I found out that some robins don’t migrate in our area of the Midwest, but only during this time of year do they gather together in flocks. Otherwise, they are pretty singular birds, pairing off in the spring. I had always heard they were winter robins. Thanks for reading. ~nan

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