One of the most widespread and most popular game birds in the world, the ring-necked pheasant is a large and attractive bird with adaptable behavior that makes it suitable for introduction in many hunting areas.
Ring-Necked Pheasant, Asian Ring-Necked Pheasant, Common Pheasant, Pheasant
- Bill: Short, curved culmen, white or cream color on males, darker on females
- Size: 21-36 inches long with 32-inch wingspan, round body, long pointed tail
- Colors: Red, blue, bronze, white, tan, brown, black, green, gray, purple, buff
- Markings: Dimorphic species. Males have an iridescent blue-purple hood with purple ear tufts and red facial wattles. A white collar rings the neck, and the underparts are bronze-brown with black or dark green mottling that is finer on the chest. The brown wings have tan streaks, and the upperparts are brown with white mottling. The rump may be bronze or gray. The long tan tail has fine dark bands. Females are much more camouflaged with a mottled brown, buff and black plumage overall, and their tail is not nearly as long as on males. Legs and feet for both genders are gray-black. Juveniles are similar to adult females.
Because of the more than 30 subspecies of ring-necked pheasant and the effects of captive breeding for hunting stock, the exact colors and markings of this species can vary substantially, though general field marks do remain distinct.
Grains, seeds, nuts, insects, mollusks (See: Granivorous)
Habitat and Migration:
These game birds are originally native to Eurasia from eastern Europe to China, Korea and eastern Russia. They prefer scrubby habitat or overgrown grasslands, and can be found in forest or marsh edges as well as agricultural areas. Because of their popularity for sport hunting, ring-necked pheasants have been introduced in many areas worldwide, including Australia, western Europe and Hawaii. In North America, these birds were first introduced to California in the 1850s, and with subsequent introductions in other areas, their year-round range has grown to extend from the southern areas of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba east to Maine and eastern Newfoundland and Labrador. They are most populous in the Great Plains region, but typically are found no further south than northern Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. These birds do not migrate, but they may be found well outside their typical range near hunting clubs where captive-bred birds may have escaped.
The ring-necked pheasant has a loud, raspy "ooork-kok" call. The two syllables can carry great distances and will be repeated at regular intervals by males claiming territory or seeking to attract females.
These are gregarious birds that gather in flocks during the autumn and winter. They forage on the ground and have a strutting walk, often with the long tail held cocked up. They are swift runners, and when they take flight, the takeoff is steep and the wings make a continual whirring noise with their shallow beats. Roosts may be in trees or on the ground, and these birds frequently take dust baths.
Ring-necked pheasants are polygamous birds with a dominant male gathering a harem of females. Mated females will build a shallow scrape nest lined with grass. The oval-shaped eggs are a dark greenish-tan or olive-brown color, and there may be 5-22 eggs per brood, though the largest broods are the result of more than one female laying eggs in the same nest. A female will only lay one brood per year.
Females incubate the eggs for 22-25 days, and the precocial young can leave the nest quickly and begin to fly short distances within a week. While the chicks can feed themselves, the female parent will stay nearby to tend and guide them for 35-45 days.
Where their ranges overlap with other game birds, ring-necked pheasants will hybridize with suitable species. In North America, these birds have successfully hybridized with ruffed grouse, dusky grouse and greater prairie-chickens.
Attracting Ring-Necked Pheasants:
In the appropriate range and habitat these game birds will visit backyards with slightly longer grass where ground feeding areas offer cracked corn or seeds. They can often be found in weedy, grassy fields, and birders should look for the male's head poking above the grass as he scans for threats, though the rest of his distinctive body may be hidden.
While hunting activities can impact these game birds, captive-breeding programs keep their numbers stable and most populations only have minor regional fluctuations. The lifespan of ring-necked pheasants is relatively short – less than two years – but these are adaptable birds that can adjust to changing habitats to some degree. Habitat management and careful hunting controls ensure the survival of wild populations.