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You are here: Home Corvid Crier Stories 2018-09 Bird of the Month: Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

Bird of the Month: Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

by Andy McCormick

Ring-necked Pheasant SmallLength  21”

Wingspan  31”

Weight  2.5 lb (1,150 g)

AOU Alpha Code RNEP

 

Introduced from Asia, the Ring-necked Pheasant is more common in Eastern Washington, but still found west of the Cascade Range.

 

The Ring-necked Pheasant is a spectacular iridescent bronze colored bird of the fields. It has a dramatic long tail and the male is resplendent with its deep green head, red eye patch, and wide white neck ring. The female is more buff colored resembling the Sharp-tailed Grouse (Alderfer).

 

Lover of Farm Land

The Ring-necked Pheasant has done well after its introduction to North American in the mid-1800s (Bell & Kennedy). It is most frequently found in the mid-latitudes in agricultural areas especially where there are grassy areas, hedges, marshes, and woodland borders. However, it can be highly adaptable to various habitats and it has also done well in the Hawaiian Islands.

 

The greatest threat to the Ring-necked Pheasant is the change in agricultural practices from smaller farms to large scale monoculture farming which reduces habitat diversity. Clean farming techniques which leave little cover after harvest also reduce available habitat (Giudice & Ratti).

 

Native Range

The native range of the Ring-necked Pheasant extends from the eastern shore of the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, then farther east to the northern slopes of the Himalayas, north into Manchuria and Korea, and south to Vietnam, Taiwan, and Japan. Attempts to introduce the Ring-neck have been made in nearly 50 countries. The bird’s adaptability has enabled it to extend its range to include temperate regions in Europe and North America (Giudice & Ratti).

 

It is placed in the genus Phasianus, Greek for pheasant. It is “Named for the River Phasius, the region from which these birds were first brought back to Greece” (Holloway, p. 152). The river is in an ancient area called Colchis, from which the species epithet cholchicus is derived. Colchis is now an area within the Republic of Georgia (Holloway).

 

Crowing and Nesting

The male Ring-necked Pheasant has a distinctive “Karok-kok!” call followed by a fluttering wing whir (Dunne). This call can be heard over a long distance. The female is generally silent. Males may have several females nesting in proximity to one other.

 

The female builds the nest on the ground in dense cover remaining from the previous fall. Usually 10-12 eggs are deposited, and females will often lay eggs in nearby nests of pheasants and other birds. Incubation by only the female lasts about four weeks. The young can leave the nest within a few days and stay with the female for 10-12 weeks. The males disburse early in the breeding cycle (Kaufman).

 

Conservation

The Ring-necked Pheasant continues to be hunted as a game bird, and annual releases occur in many areas making accuracy in determining its status difficult. Typically, only males can be hunted. Management beyond breeding them for hunting is limited. Primary natural management centers on preserving hay and grass cover for nesting. Some efforts are made to have farmers delay mowing until late July, as hens and broods can escape mowers by then, but farmers tend to be reluctant to wait much longer. However, delayed mowing of roadside grass has been more easily accomplished (Giudice & Ratti).

 

References available upon request from amccormick@eastsideaudubon.org.

Below photo credit by Ollie Oliver

 

Ring-necked Pheasant

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