Bird Of the Month - Pheasant

 close up side view of a male ringnecked pheasant

While pheasants are a familiar sight in the British countryside and appear well-suited to their habitat they are in fact an introduced, non-native species.

Originally pheasants weren't even native to Europe, having been introduced into the continent by the Romans and possibly brought into Britain by the Normans in the 11th century. It wasn't until the 19th century that they became a popular gamebird for shooting. These days pheasants are bred by gamekeepers for the sole purpose of being released into the wider environment as a gamebird for shooting.

Key Facts

Pheasant – Phasianus Colchicus  
Length: 50-90cm  
Wingspan: 75-90cm  
Weight: 750g-2kg  
Average Lifespan: 1-2 years  

Distinctive Appearance: If you gave a 4 year old some colouring crayons and asked them to design a bird, they would probably unintentionally draw a pheasant. The Pheasant is an elegant but more unusual-looking bird with strong sexual dimorphism. The males have a particularly distinctive look thanks to the combination of golden-brown feathers on their body and green and blue feathers around their necks. The females are almost entirely brown with a lighter coloured underbelly, as well as shorter tails. 

a male and female pheasant stood next to each other on grass

Pheasant Habitat: You will most commonly see pheasants in smaller groups, or even alone. You would typically see them in countryside regions, specifically somewhere with long grass, hedgerows, trees or foliage to provide cover from danger, particularly during the nesting season.

A male pheasant stood in tall grass

Adaptations:

  • Short & Fat Wings - In order to generate a lot of upward thrust, allowing them to quickly gain flying speed (up to 50mph) and escape potential predators.
  • Strong Legs - Another method of fleeing danger would certainly be running, for the Pheasant. It's strong legs allow them to run quickly to safety.

 a male pheasant flying through the air

What do pheasants eat? Pheasants aren’t too fussy and enjoy eating a variety of foods which include seeds, grains, leaves and insects. It's not uncommon for pheasants to factor more foods rich in fats into their diets during the winter, including seeds.

 a male pheasant leaning down to eat

Hunting in the UK: In the UK, it’s illegal to hunt most wild birds, however, pheasants, like partridges, are not classed as wild birds are covered by the Game Act, meaning it’s legal to hunt them from October to February. 

 a hunter aiming a rifle at fleeing pheasants with a dawn sky background

Nesting: The female pheasants tend to find hidden places in tall grass and underneath hedges to begin nesting, whilst the males keep guard and aggressively fend off other male pheasants. Their breeding season typically starts in March.

A clutch of pheasant eggs within tall grass

Fledging: With breeding starting in March, the incubation period is normally 3-4 weeks with another 2 weeks for fledging. Look how cute they are when they are chicks!

 a pheasant chick walking through green grass


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