Ring-Necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

The Ring-necked Pheasant is a very distinctive and colorful bird. The species was introduced into North America
from Asia about 200 years ago and is established over much of the continent. In the early 1900’s, Connecticut began introducing them with the hope that they would reproduce in the wild and help buffer the declining native populations of grouse and quail. The species has a limited amount of preferred habitat and is a popular bird to hunt, so they are not very common in our state. If you take a stroll through our New England Farmyard, you can see a pair of these striking birds.

Ring-necked Pheasants are well adapted for life on the ground and will take flight only when there is no other means of escape. When threatened, a pheasant will burst into flight with a rapid flurry of short wing beats, rise a short distance, lock its wings and glide into protective cover.

Description: 

A large game bird with short, rounded wings and a long, tapered tail. The adult male pheasant has a bluish-green or purple head and neck with a white collar. On the face there is a bright patch of red skin on the cheeks and around their orange eyes, forming red wattles below. The beak is stout and pale. The plumage is a bronze color with scattered black spots and blue-green iridescence. The males also have spurs on their legs. Including the tail, males are usually about 36 inches in length. The female is smaller overall, with an average length of 23 inches including the tail. They have a buff brown head and underside, mottled brown back, black spots and bars scattered about the head, neck and flanks. Females have long, pointed buff brown tails and do not have spurs on their legs. Immature birds look similar to coloration of adult females.

Habitat: 

Agricultural land, especially cultivated lands interspersed with grass ditches, hedges, marshes, woodland borders and brushy groves.

Range: 

The Ring-necked Pheasant’s native range includes central and eastern Asia and Japan. In the United States, the species has been released in almost every state. Its most substantial populations have been established in the grain-producing regions of the Midwest and agricultural areas north of Virginia.

Diet: 

Cultivated grains, seeds, grasses, leaves, roots, wild fruits, nuts and insects.

Life Span: 

In the wild, males live about 10 months and females about 20 months. In captivity, pheasants can live 27 years.

Family Life: 

One male pheasant may support a group of 12 females, and will defend his territory by fighting off other males. This territory is established beginning in March, and hens select their nest sites in April and May. Each hen will lay up to 15 olive-brown eggs at a rate of one per day in a shallow depression lined with grass and leaves, surrounded by tall grass or weeds. During this period, nests may be destroyed by predators, farm machinery or spring flooding. Once disturbed, a hen may abandon the nest but will usually make an attempt to produce a second clutch of eggs. Incubation lasts about 23 days with no assistance given by the male. Hatching usually occurs around the middle of June. Chicks hatch with their eyes open and will leave the nest to find food. They remain with their mother for about 7 weeks, then molt their juvenile feathers and begin to develop adult plumage. Males display their full coloration and neck ring when they are about 18 weeks old.

Status: 

Populations are declining, probably because of changes in farming practices and habitat loss.