Listening to James’ talk, his down to earth style led you on a journey of keeping and raising pheasants and ending with the backbone of what it means to be an aviculturist with quotes from Jean Delacour and William Beebe. James’ enthusiasm is contagious and his eye for detail is outstanding. The slides were a blend of beautiful species, museum skin closeups and practical examples from over 40 years of experience. The beginning slides set the stage for conservation breeding - keeping multi-pairs to maintain a species and raising pheasants with the best stock available. James explained the difference between Seed Stock and Brood Stock, which he has expanded on for this article:
- The breeding stock of a species / subspecies, that are typically inbred (Homozygous) and are the geographic core type for the species. They are consistent in passing on the same traits of fine point species distinction, are more nervous, have less vitality, but are crucial for long term breeding and conservation.
- Breeding stock of species / subspecies, that are genetically pure and are not pre- potent (Homozygous) for phenotype expression (pre-potent is an individual that is highly capable of passing on his good traits to the off spring). Brood fowl produce offspring that on the whole have a greater degree of variation (not showing the consistent traits of fine point species distinction Seed fowl do) but have high vitality and can produce Seed fowl.
Birds from each of these 2 types of stock are used as TWO separate lines, lending to each other’s lines as needed. Seed fowl are used to bolster Brood fowl when their vitality drops, by infusing 1 Seed chick for every 20 Brood chicks raised. You can inject Seed fowl into Brood fowl at 50%, and maintained at 25% of the genomic continuity without jeopardizing the vitality. You can infuse Brood fowl into Seed fowl, but that presence will never be more 31/32 pure.
These two lineages are the very example of genetics found in wild breeding birds. Brood fowl: Are very vigorous, occupying the greatest geographic territory, are found outward from the central core epicenter to the species expected range limitations, and are the most widely seen representation of the species/subspecies.
Seed fowl: Are the core representation of a species or geographic form, consisting of family
breeding units, sympatric pods, that are within 25% of its geographic epicenter.
His pheasant slides included many pictures of imported birds and showed examples and comparisons of similar species and what to look for in quality birds. For many it was the “Ah ha!” moment when you see the subtle differences in tail markings or breast feathering or richness in color. He was able to explain the difference between specie variations, which, in the wild, doesn’t determine a subspecies, and phenotypic traits found in a population in specific geographic locations which does determine a subspecies. James has traveled to museums around the world with Kurt Landig (also at the meeting), to photograph not only pheasant species but also all the various subspecies. Just prior to this meeting, James, Kurt and Ron Johnson spent two days at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum reviewing many of the pheasants in their collection.