10 February 2019

I’ve lost track of what number Philip we’re on at present. For years now, we’ve referred to the male pheasant that takes up winter residence in the garden as Philip, but I’m pretty sure they haven’t always been the same chap. Certainly, the current Philip doesn’t bang on the dining-room window, demanding to be fed, like his notorious predecessor. Unless it is the same Philip, but he’s learnt some manners.

For most of this winter, there’s also been a female pheasant in the garden. Philippa, obviously. The two have pretty much ignored each other all winter. But now spring is in the air, Philip has suddenly begun to find Philippa very interesting indeed. He spends much of his time strutting in parallel with her, his wings slightly ajar, angling his back to her, as if to say, ‘Look at my beautiful feathers!’ Which is, in effect, exactly what he is saying. When it comes to pheasants, beautiful feathers quite literally help pull the birds.

Darwin wrote about this sort of shenanigans, of course. He called it sexual selection, which it’s really a special case of natural selection. Being good at attracting the opposite sex is one more evolved trick in leaving more offspring.

Good luck, Philip! We’re rooting for you, mate!

Richard Carter

Richard Carter is a writer and photo­grapher living in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. He is currently working on a book about looking at the world through Darwin’s eyes.Website · Newsletter · Mastodon · Facebook

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