Pheasant Phasianus colchicus

Other Names:
Comet in poaching circles, Ring neck Pheasant, Silver Back Pheasant, Light Backed Pheasant, common pheasant, Chinese Ring necked Pheasant, some are sub–species and there are many others subs that have not been named here but are disruptive of colour and range they come from which have been interduced for sport.

Habitat: Prefers woodland and hedgerows for breeding. Often found in open fields. Many are bred in captivity and released for shooting. Older reports state that water in the form of moist ground is also required to breed them successfully .

Native to Asia but introduced throughout Europe and North America for sport.
UK: They are widespread throughout Britain but absent from high mountains. Resident and not known to migrate.
Worldwide: unknown, Europe in 2004 estimated 3,400,000 – 4,700,000
U.K. : In Summer 2009, 2.2 million Females

Food: Pheasants have a varied diet which they forage for on the ground and occasionally in trees. Typically, the diet is seeds, berries, insects, worms, grass and fruit. Corn feed by man on game shoots

Breeding: 7 – 15 olive eggs in a shallow ground nest in cover, chicks hutch after 23–27 days, the young are active at birth and fledge at about between 13 – 15 days.

Bill: Ivory in colour, Insect shape bill
Length: 53cm – 59 cm.


The Pheasant is not a native to the British Isles. They were brought in by the Romans for domestic use but these do not seem to have gone feral as they were the ‘Old English’ Pheasants which were distinguished by the cock having a black neck. It may have been that the conditions in this country did not suit the birds. The oldest record of the Ring–necked Pheasant a bird with a white ring around the neck, was introduced in the 11th century at Waltham Abbey. More were introduced by the Normans and other variants were introduced over the centuries. These interbred and produced more variations including the dark mutant, the Black Pheasant, today referred to as a melanistic bird, where the cock is a dark blue and greeny-black and the hen is a rich chocolate brown. The Pheasant is known as the Comet in poaching circles, probably for its long tail.
There are a number of mutations plus sub-species that are all referred to as Pheasants here in Britain, that have been breed for the game bird season, that either are slightly smaller, fly faster, that gain more height before going into a glide flight, plus a few colour variations that are for the benefit of the Guns or the interest of the Keeper, with this in mind, the white mutation is regarded as the game keepers bird and if shoot by a gun on the shoot that gun will generally need to pay a penalty to the Keeper for shooting it.
Each year the national population is increased in August by the introduced birds estimated at 25–35 million for the shooting season if the average keeper will have 37% of the birds shoot whilst a good shoot will achieve over 40% of the birds released will see the bag, predators such as fox, animal rights introduced mink our own native stoats, birds of prey, road kill, that will feed corvids and many other creatures including other birds, will take their toll on the other 50% plus, so you could ask what would these creatures feed on if no shooting took place? Or would they just die? Then there will be the final cull of cock birds before the breeding process starts again.
Here is a graph from the “Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust”, result on a survey of released birds fate once put into pen. The time of the results were from going into the pen to Febuary, there is likely to be additional natural predation/starvation before breeding takes place.

Early pen death = mean 3.5%
Shot within estate = mean 30.5%
Shot off estate = mean 7.0%
Predated/scavenged before shooting = mean 23.0%
Predated/scavenged after shooting began = mean 13.0%
Other death = mean 7.0%
Survived = mean 16.0%

When looking at these figures we need to remember what happen to our wild birds when they leave the nest and have to fend for themselves. Birds with simular egg clutch sizes can have losses of 90% in the fledged young.
There is a strong debate as to whether the interdiction of these Pheasant are bad or good for wildlife in general, for they do eat food whilst alive which other wildlife is deprived off, on the flip side the cover crops have taken the roll for many finch flocks in the winter months that used to catered for by stable fields, the pheasant feeders that help hold the birds are also used by other birds and I have found a good location to find Yellowhammers that used to be seen around sheep troughs especially around the sheep’s feeding times, today less sheep are feed in the field during winter so depriving the Yellowhammer of essential winter food, is it a reason for less Yellowhammers?
The Pheasant is a very good meat to eat and in some area a cheap roast, richer with more flavour than Chicken but prepared in a similar ways, the best place to find them for sale is your local farmer market were a local game dealer is likely to have a stall with them and other game for sale, they can sell Pheasants that are shoot between 1st October to the 1st February.
I have read that the word pheasant is derived from the word Phasis, which was an ancient city, which I feel shows it tendency to group up as does man, having dominant and subdominant member. You can tell a dominant male bird in breeding condition by the size of its red face lobe and hanging wattle the larger the red area the more dominant the bird with the lightly hood of it having a larger harem.
Man has used the pheasant to name many British Pubs, living accommodation, with South Dakota in the states taking the Common Pheasant as its state Bird. The pheasant is also the English name of the complete subfamily Phasianus of Birds from the family of Phasianidae of which many are kept and breed in captivity whilst lots are endangered.
Possible due to the fact that here in Britain Pheasants are taken to be a bird of the countryside solely for countryside pursuits the bird watching organisations come communities have never really studied them, our science knowledge is from the conservation interests more linked to hunting than the more recognised Bird organisations, even the respected Birdlife international have little on then but say the wild population is probable scarce.

Melanistic Pheasant
Head Study
Photograph of
young Pheasant
from cover crop
Pheasant flying
photopgraph of Melanistic Pheasant, photographer Paul Cumberland photopgraph of young Pheasant from cover crop, photographer Paul Cumberland photopgraph of Pheasant flying, photographer Paul Cumberland
photo by
Paul Cumberland
by Paul Cumberland
Paul Cumberland
for licensing,
please contact us

Contact Paul for advertising rates