Meet the Island’s most reluctant tourist, the ring-necked pheasant. Plucked from a bucolic life on a MassWildlife-sanctioned game farm in New England, in the fall they’re packed in cardboard boxes and given a one-way ferry ticket to the Vineyard. After a brief respite at one of the Island’s most picturesque properties half will be shot, others will be picked off by red-tailed hawks and the rest will likely succumb to the cold.

It is all part of the state’s pheasant stocking program, which has been in place since 1906. The program is funded by the sportsmen themselves through licensing fees and surtaxes on ammunition and fishing equipment sales. Some 40,000 birds are stocked on hunting preserves and wildlife sanctuaries throughout the commonwealth every year, and the Vineyard receives a generous allotment.

“About 10 years ago [Manuel F. Correllus State Forest superintendant] John Varkonda contacted me and said that he was running out of places to put them,” said Matthew Dix, conservation lands foreman for the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank.

Some 240 birds are released on the Vineyard annually, mostly in the state forest, and others at land bank properties, including Waskosim’s Rock, Sepiessa and Peaked Hill. Last week the unusual appearance of iridescent-greenish black pheasants in West Tisbury led some to believe the birds had wandered from land bank properties, but both Mr. Dix and Mr. Varkonda insist that the state sent only tawny-plumaged ring-necks this year.

“All the boxes had ring-necked pheasants in them,” said Mr. Dix. “I don’t know who’s seeing what or where they’re coming from.”

But noted Island naturalist Gus Ben David said the unusual birds are likely still ring-necked pheasants. Considered by some to be a subspecies of the ring-necked or common pheasant, the green pheasant is the national bird of Japan. Like the black panther, it is what is known as a melanistic mutant.

“There’s a number of different color-phased pheasants running around the Vineyard,” Mr. Ben David said. “In captivity on the game farms they’re crossbreeding all the different races and coming up with these color phases.”

But he said the state is not necessarily responsible for the proliferation of green pheasants. After all, it’s not the only player on the Island in the game bird-stocking business.

“Not to mention names but everybody’s doing it,” Mr. Ben David said. He said some Island hunting enthusiasts purchase birds from popular game farms like the Iowa-based Murray McMurray Hatchery and release them into the wild.

“It’s not really allowed legally. If you go by the letter of the law, when you get pheasants and quails and things you have to get licenses. They really don’t give licenses to release these birds into the wild because they’re worried about disease introduction but it’s like anything in life, people do it anyway,” Mr. Ben David said.

The state’s annual shipment to the Vineyard keeps hunters busy during pheasant season, which lasts from mid-October until the week after Thanksgiving — especially at land bank properties, where hunting native upland game species such as woodcock or bobwhite quail is prohibited. The bobwhite quail has been nearly extirpated on the Island; Mr. Ben David said the supposed recovery in recent years is likely artificial.

“I was at the lumber yard this morning talking to a guy who last spring raised 100 of them,” he said. “Everybody’s getting their hopes up that our native bobwhite is recovering, but they’re seeing these game farm hand-raised birds.”

Other unusual reports Mr. Ben David has received include sightings of the Chukar partridge, a game bird whose native range extends from Israel to India. Mr. Ben David is not concerned about the ecological impacts of these doomed feathered foreigners.

“It’s totally insignificant because they’re raised hygienically at these hatcheries, so I’m not worried at all,” he said.

As for the hapless ring-necks, a Chinese native, the warm winter weather has served as a reprieve.

“Once we get a heavy snowfall the cooper’s and red-tailed hawks will just wipe these things right out,” he said.

Still, there is the occasional bedraggled straggler that survives into the new year.

“Every few years you’ll see a bird in the spring,” said Mr. Dix. “At my house, even up in Chilmark, I had one that was hanging around a chicken coop of mine in February and March. I didn’t see it much after that.”