Pheasant -- 雉鸡 (Phasianus colchicus)

Male pheasant
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Pheasant fact file

Pheasant description

GenusPhasianus (1)

The birds (Phasianus colchicus) was introduced to Britain by the Romans and Normans (5); further introductions of various races (or 'subspecies') have been made since (6), and it is now our commonest gamebird (7). As the different races have since interbred, adult plumage is extremely variable (5). Adult males are attractive and unmistakable, with a long tail, bright red wattles around the eyes (5), a chestnut coloured body, and an iridescent green or bluish head, which is often separated from the body by a white collar (5). Females are paler in colour, with spots and streaks, which provide good camouflage (5).

Male length: 70-90 cm (of which the tail is 35-45 cm) (2)
Female length: 55-70 cm (of which the tail is 20-25 cm) (2)

Pheasant biology

The pheasants' diet is broad, incorporating seeds, roots, berries, leaves, and insects (5). Males mate with more than one female; females undertake the duties of nesting and rearing chicks alone (5). During late April, between 7 and 15 eggs are laid in a grass-lined hollow on the ground (5). The chicks hatch between 23 and 27 days later, and become independent after 12 to 14 days (5).

Pheasants roost in trees (2), and form flocks in winter when feeding, in which hierarchies develop amongst the females (7)


Pheasant range

Pheasant shooting became popular in the 17th and 18th Centuries; large numbers of captive-reared birds are released each summer to supply this activity and supplement the population (5). The birds is now widely distributed throughout Britain, but is absent from the West Highlands and the islands of Scotland, and from some areas of the uplands in England and Wales (7). It is known throughout western Europe, central Asia, China, Korea and southeastern Siberia, and has been introduced to many other areas (8).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Pheasant habitat

Typically prefers wooded agricultural lowland (7), but birdss may also occur in gardens, parks and marshes, their preferred habitats in Asia (5).


Pheasant status

The pheasant is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). It is introduced to Britain (3). Covered by Game Acts which give protection in the close season and allow it to be shot from 1st October to 1st February (4).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Pheasant threats

The pheasant is not currently threatened (1).


Pheasant conservation

The Game Conservancy Trust is currently researching the consequences of releasing large numbers of captive-bred birdss into small areas (9).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

For more information on the pheasant:

For more on British birds:



Information authenticated by the RSPB:



A different race of a species, which is geographically separated from other populations of that species.


  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2011)
  2. Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterstrom, D., & Grant, P.J. (1999) Collins Bird Guide. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, London.
  3. RSPB pheasant information (July 2003):
  4. RSPB (2003) Pers. comm.
  5. Gooders, J. (1982) Collins British Birds. William Collins Sons and Co Ltd, London.
  6. Greenoak, F. (1979) All the birds of the air. Book Club Associates, London.
  7. Lack, P. (1986) The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. D. Poyser Ltd, Calton.
  8. Walters, M. (1994) Eyewitness Handbooks: Birds' Eggs. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  9. Game Conservancy Trust Research (November 2002):

Image credit

Male pheasant  
Male pheasant


Laurie Campbell Photography
TD15 1TE
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1289 386 736
Fax: +44 (0) 1289 386 746


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Listen to the Pheasant

Pheasant recordings by Gregory F. Budney and Geoffrey A. Keller

© Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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