The Ringneck pheasant, also popularly known as ‘Pheasant’ or ‘Common pheasant’, is native to Asia. They were introduced in many parts of the world. It is one of the world’s most popular game birds, especially in North America.
Species: P. colchicus
The scientific name for the Ringneck pheasant is Phasianus colchicus.
● Phasianus colchicus colchicus group (Caucasus pheasants)
● Phasianus colchicus chrysomelas/principal group (White-winged pheasants)
● Phasianus colchicus mongolicus group (Mongolian ringneck pheasants)
● Phasianus colchicus tarimensis group (Tarim pheasants)
● Phasianus colchicus torquatus group (Chinese ringneck pheasants)
● Phasianus colchicus karpowi (Korean ringneck pheasant)
● Phasianus colchicus pallasi (Manchurian ringneck pheasant)
Sexual dimorphism is present in this species, with females being less colorful compared to males.
Adult male specimens of nominate subspecies Phasianus colchicus can be 60 to 89 centimetres in length. Their body weight can be up to 3 kilos depending on sex and age. The male common pheasants can be of various colors, ranging from bright copper-red, bright gold, as well as chestnut-brown with a glowing sheen of blue and green. The wing color is whitish-cream. They have a long tail with black lines. The color of their head is green with a little crest. The area around their eyes is red. The color of the females (hens) and juveniles are much duller. Females carry brown feathers with dark spots all over. Adult females are 50 to 63 centimetres in length. The tail of the female is a lot shorter than males. The appearance of the young ones is similar to that of the female except for the fact that they have a small tail.
This species can be found in various types of habitats apart from areas like alpine forests and dense rainforest.
They mostly prefer open cover lands, such as farmlands and grasslands. They are also found in marshes, ditches, hedges, and bushes.
The geographical range of Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck pheasant is native to Eurasia. The native geographical range includes the Caspian Sea, east throughout the central part of Asia to China, Korea, and Japan, They are also found in Myanmar.
The introduced population of this species can be found in Hawaii, New Zealand, North America, and Europe. In North America, they inhabit mid-latitude farming lands, ranging from California to New England states, southern Canada to Utah; and south to Virginia.
Phasianus colchicus is a social bird. In Autumn, they can be seen in large groups in places where food is abundant. Their home range tends to be smaller during winter months than during the breeding season. They are generally a non-migratory bird, but depending on food and cover, they sometimes migrate long distances. During winter, the northern population of the bird tends to move to places with mild weather. They can be seen spending most of their time on the ground, and they congregate both in the ground and in small trees. They walk with a strutting gait, and they are abrupt runners. They keep their tail in forty-five-degree angle when running. Pheasants are great fliers, and they can take-off vertically. Males can produce a rasping call while taking-off. They clean their plumage and shake off dirt by wing shaking and ground scratching.
In mid-March or in early July, male establish a breeding territory, with no definite boundaries. Dominant males form a harem that may have 2 to 20 females.
Each female has a seasonal monogamous relationship with one male. Females select their mating partner depending on a few factors – such as a male who will be able to give protection during nesting season. Feeding rituals also play a part in attracting females. Recent researches have shown that females tend to prefer males with long tails. Nesting starts just before females lay eggs. At first, a shallow crater is made on the ground with readily available vegetation. Each female lay one egg per day, and in one season they lay 7 to 15 eggs. Females mostly stay in the nest and incubate the eggs. In the morning, and evening, they go out of the nest to feed. The incubation process takes 23 days. After hatching, chicks are precocial. Their legs stay fully developed, eyes open and covered with down. They can immediately follow the hen in search of food. They are mostly self-feeding. The young ones can typically take flight within 12 days, but they stay with the hen for the next two or three months before becoming fully independent.
Ringneck pheasants are omnivorous species. They forage in the early morning and in the evening.
Their diet varies depending on place and season. They feed on insects, spiders, snakes, frogs, lizards, rodents, earthworms, crickets, snails, fresh green shoots, smaller seeds, berries, wild grapes, apples, roots, and buds.
Life expectancy of Ringneck Pheasant
In the wild, the lifespan of this species is around three years.
When frightened, pheasants make a hoarse croaking sounds. The calls produced by males is loud, while females produce more subtle calls that are almost inaudible. Males call at dawn, duck and during mating season in order to protect its territory.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has named this bird in the ‘Least Concern’ category.
● Ringneck pheasant was first described in Systema Naturae by Linnaeus in the year 1758 under its present binomial name.
● South Dakota’s state bird is Ringneck pheasant. It is one of just three US state birds which is not native to the United States.
● The Green Pheasant (Phasianus Versicolor) is very similar to Common pheasant (and sometimes considered as a subspecies of it). The hybridization of these two often makes it very difficult to determine the subspecies of the offspring.
● Phasianus colchicus become extremely vulnerable to predation during breeding season as they nest on the ground.
● In the US, pheasant hunting is extremely popular, especially in states like Montana, Wyoming, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. In South Dakota alone, more than a million birds are harvested by 200000 hunters each year.
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