Ring-necked Pheasant - The Chinese Pheasant

December 27, 2015  •  3 Comments

Ring-necked Pheasants are native to East Asia and China but have been successfully relocated into other countries, including North America.  If you consider some of the other birds that have been imported into the United States, like the English Sparrow and Starling, the Ring-necked Pheasant is one of the few that haven't become a nuisance.  Introduced to California in 1857 and to other states in the 1880's, they quickly became a top game bird.

The ring-neck's scientific name is Phasianus colchicus, and it is a member of the Phasianidae, or pheasant, family.  I found the following information on the DesertUSA website that gives a sense of how old this species is.  "The genus name Phasianus (fay-sih-AY-nus) is from the Greek word "phasianos" meaning "of the Phasis River," which is located in the country along the east coast of the Black Sea. The river is now called the Rion. The species name colchicus (COL-kih-kus) is Latin for Colchis, an area in Greek mythology which was a province and city at the eastern end of the Black Sea and the Phasis River. It was from this region that the Greek Argonauts were said to have brought home the original pheasant stock to their own country".

The photos in this photo blog were made with a Canon 7D mark II body, a Canon 600mm II f/4 lens, and for the final two images I used a 1.4x extender.  The pheasants averaged 95 yards away.

The male, or "cock", is a vibrantly colored bird with red wattles (fold of skin hanging from a bird's neck or face) and an iridescent green neck with a distinctive white neck ring.  He also has a long copper colored tail with black stripes.  He has a powerful voice that can be heard up to a mile away.

Ring-necked PheasantRing-necked PheasantMale (Cock)

 

The plumage of a female, or "hen", is a subtle, camouflaging mixture of brown, black, and gray.

Ring-necked PheasantRing-necked PheasantFemale (Hen)

 

Although most pheasants are found around farms, fields, marsh edges, and brush, they may live in any semi-open habitat.   However, they are mostly found in brushy meadows, woodland edges, hedgerows, farmland with mixed crops and edges of marshes.  I found this male in an open field alongside a large section of brushy meadow that hid three hens.

Ring-necked PheasantRing-necked PheasantMale (Cock)

 

When the hens got a little excited that I was nearby, they began to fly short distances back and forth causing the cock to call to them.  Adults of each sex give specialized calls associated with flight, alarm, distress, copulation, and incubation. The female uses one call to signal her brood to hide from danger, another to call them back together.

Ring-necked PheasantRing-necked PheasantMale (Cock)

 

Pheasants are very comfortable on the ground, where they forage for grains, seeds, berries, insects, and, occasionally, small animals.  When they take-off, their lift-off is nearly vertical and they only fly in short bursts and distances. 

Ring-necked PheasantRing-necked PheasantFemale (Hen)

 

Below is a short video of the Pheasants searching for corn left over from the mechanical corn picker.  Click on the center triangle to play the video.

Ring-necked Pheasant's in winter cornfield

 

Ring-necked Pheasants have a tough time surviving harsh winters.  Unlike the Ruffed Grouse, they do not have feathers on their legs for protection from the cold.  Many of the birds that are found have been pen-raised by designated farmers or the Pennsylvania Game Commission for the purpose of hunting.  Pen-raised birds lack the survival skills to establish their population so annual stocking is required.  Changes to the farming industry has also reduced their favorable habitats.

Ring-necked PheasantRing-necked PheasantMale (Cock) & Female (Hen)

 

In really harsh winters, pheasants have been known to hide among native vegetation for protection. In extreme cold, they cope by remaining dormant for a few days.  They are hardy birds and have sharp survival instincts and given adequate food and protective cover, pheasants can survive rough winters.

Ring-necked PheasantRing-necked PheasantMale (Cock) & Female (Hen)

 

The pheasant averages 36 inches long from beak to tip of tail and has a wingspan of 22–34 inches.

Ring-necked PheasantRing-necked PheasantMale (Cock)

 

Here you can see the greenish ear tufts that grow on the sides of their head.

Ring-necked PheasantRing-necked PheasantMale (Cock)

 

Thanks for looking,

Dan


Comments

Willard Hill(non-registered)
An excellent story and photos, Dan. It looks like y our 7D MK II is doing a good job. I just got mine back from repair--haven't got around to testing it much yet, except for taking a few wildlife shots with it.
Donna(non-registered)
Hi, Dan. Another great article. I remember growing up in Ohio and seeing these birds almost daily in the 1960's and 70's. Now I'm lucky to live near a game preserve where they are stocked annually. So I see them fairly often. Enjoyed the article. Thanks.
Paul Staniszewski(non-registered)
Great photos...
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