GALLERIES > BIRDS > GALLIFORMES > PHASIANIDAE > RING-NECKED PHEASANT [Phasianus colchicus]
Location: Bosque del Apache, NMGPS: 33.8N, -106.9W, elev=4,517' MAP
Date: December 15, 2007
ID : 9276 [3888 x 2592]
The Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), known in the US as the Ring-necked Pheasant or Chinese Pheasant, is a bird in the pheasant family. It is native to Asia but has been widely introduced elsewhere as a game bird.
The Common Pheasant is one of the world's most hunted birds, where it has been introduced, and is also common on game farms where it is commercially farmed for this purpose.
The specific epithet, colchicus, refers to Colchis, a region in the Caucasus.
This species has a number of colloquial names, such as "Chinks" in the US "Mountain chicken" in China and "Phezzens" in Montana
There are many colour forms of the Common Pheasant, ranging in colour from white to almost black in some melanistic examples. These are due to captive breeding and hybridisation between subspecies and with Green Pheasant,reinforced by continually releases to the wild.
The adult male Common Pheasant is 76-89 cm in length with a long brown streaked black tail, accounting for almost 50 cm of the total length. The male is known as the cock. The body plumage is barred bright gold and brown plumage with green, purple and white markings. In some birds there is a white ring around the neck, and the head is bottle green with a small crest and distinctive red wattles.
The nominate race P. c. colchicus lacks a white neck ring. This is however shown by the race P. c. torquatus (Ring-necked Pheasant). Torquatus means "collared.
The female (hen) is much less showy, with a duller mottled brown plumage all over and measuring 53-63 cm long with a tail of around 20 cm. Juvenile birds have the appearance of the female with a shorter tail until young males begin to grow characteristic bright feathers on the breast, head and back at about 10 weeks.
The Green Pheasant of Japan is very similar to Common Pheasant, but the males have dark greenish plumage and females are darker. The Ring-Necked Pheasant is the state bird of South Dakota, one of only three US state birds that is not a species native to the United States.
Common Pheasants are native to Asia, their original range extending from between the Black and Caspian seas to Manchuria, Siberia, Korea, China, Japan and Taiwan.
Common Pheasants can now be found across the globe due to their readiness to breed in captivity and the fact they can naturalise in many climates. The bird was brought to Great Britain around the 10th century, arguably earlier, by both the Romans and the Normans, but became locally extinct in the early 17th century. It was rediscovered as a gamebird after being ignored for many years in the 1830s, since when it has been reared extensively by gamekeepers. Because around 30 million pheasants are released each year on shooting estates, it is widespread in distribution, although most released birds survive less than a year in the wild. Repeated reintroduction has made the pheasant a very variable species in regard to size and plumage.
Common Pheasants were introduced in North America in 1857, and have become well established throughout much of the Midwest, the Plains states, and parts of the West, as well as Canada and Mexico. It is now most common on the Great Plains.
Common Pheasants have also been introduced to Tasmania, New Zealand, much of north-west Europe, the Hawaiian Islands, Chile, St Helena and Rottnest Island. It has also been unsuccessfully introduced to many other countries.
The birds are found in woodland, farmland, scrub and wetlands. In its natural habitat the Common Pheasant lives in grassland near water with scattered trees.
Common Pheasants are gregarious birds and outside the breeding season form loose flocks. Wherever they are hunted they are always timid once they associate humans with danger, and will quickly run for safety after hearing beaters/hunters arriving in the area.
While Common Pheasants are able short-distance fliers, they prefer to run: but if startled they can suddenly burst upwards at great speed, with a distinctive "whirring" wing sound. Their flight speed is only 43-61 kilometres per hour (27 to 38 mph) when cruising but when chased they can fly up to 90 kilometres per hour (60 mph).
Common Pheasants feed solely on the ground but roost in sheltered trees at night. They eat a wide variety of animal and vegetable type-food, like fruit, seeds and leaves as well as a wide range of invertebrates, with snakes, lizards, small mammals and birds occasionally taken.
They nest on the ground, producing a clutch of around ten eggs over a two-three week period in April to June. The incubation period is about 23-26 days. The chicks stay near the hen for several weeks after hatching but grow quickly, resembling adults by only 15 weeks of age.
The males are polygynous and are often accompanied by a harem of several females.
Most Common Pheasants bagged in the United States are feral pheasants.
In many parts of the United States the Pheasant is seen as the premier upland game bird. Some states derive significant revenue from pheasant hunting. In most states only roosters can be legally hunted.