Ring-Necked Pheasant

Phasianus colchicus
Family

Phasianidae (partridges, grouse, turkeys, Old World quail) in the order Galliformes

Description

Long-tailed and chickenlike. The adult male is an iridescent mix of bronze, green, and black, with a red fleshy patch of skin around the eye and usually a white ring around the neck. The female is brown with a pointed tail, not rounded as in grouse and prairie-chickens. The voice of male is a harsh two-syllable SCAA-konk; the hen’s is a soft keea, keea.

Similar species: The greater prairie-chicken, a state-endangered species native to Missouri’s prairies, is also chickenlike but has a much shorter tail and more strongly barred coloration.

Size

Length: 32 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).

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Photo of a female ring-necked pheasant in flight.
Ring-Necked Pheasant Hen in Flight
The female ring-necked pheasant is brown with a pointed tail, not rounded as in grouse and prairie-chickens.

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Photo of male ring-necked pheasant, closeup of head.
Ring-Necked Pheasant Cock
The adult male ring-necked pheasant has a red fleshy patch of skin around the eye and usually a white ring around the neck.

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Photo of a male ring-necked pheasant walking on the ground.
Ring-Necked Pheasant
In fall and winter, pheasants eat grain and other seeds, leaves, roots, berries, nuts, and some insects.

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Photo of three ring-necked pheasants running at Squaw Creek refuge.
Ring-Necked Pheasants
The ring-necked pheasant is often spotted running across roads and through open areas.

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Photo of a man releasing two ring-necked pheasant cocks into a field.
Releasing Ring-Necked Pheasants
Originally from Asia, pheasants have been introduced in many countries, including the United States, as a gamebird.

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Photo of three immature ring-necked pheasants in a grassy field.
Ring-Necked Pheasants (Immature)
Attempts to establish huntable populations of ring-necked pheasants in Missouri have had only limited success.

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Photo of a male ring-necked pheasant walking across a gravel road.
Ring-Necked Pheasant Male
The cock pheasant's crowing calls can be heard most often in the spring, but they may call throughout the year.

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Photo of a ring-necked pheasant, immature male.
Ring-Necked Pheasant (Immature Male)
The fleshy red patches around the eyes show that this immature ring-necked pheasant is a young male.

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Photo of a ring-necked pheasant cock in flight.
Ring-Necked Pheasant Cock in Flight
Pheasants and their relatives evade predators by making sudden, explosive bursts of flight.
Habitat and conservation

Pheasants forage in fields of row crops and in grasslands. They prefer places with undisturbed dense vegetation 9-17 inches tall within a quarter of a mile of cultivated land, and where 70-85 percent of the land is in cultivation. Attempts to establish huntable populations of nonnative bird species in Missouri have had only limited success. The ring-necked pheasant is the only one to be successfully established, in northern Missouri and in a few counties in the central Mississippi Lowlands.

Foods

In fall and winter, pheasants eat grain and other seeds, leaves, roots, berries, nuts, and some insects. In spring and summer, during breeding season, they need more protein to support egg production and the extra activity of courting, mating, and nesting. At that time, they eat more insects and other small animals, and more green leafy materials. Like other gallinaceous (chickenlike) birds, they mostly feed on the ground, scratching, digging, and pecking as they forage.

image of Ring-Necked Pheasant distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Found only in about the northern quarter of Missouri, and in the Bootheel region.

Status

Introduced to North America in the 1880s. In Missouri, an uncommon permanent resident in the northern Glaciated Plains and rare in the central part of the Mississippi Lowlands.

Life cycle

Males (cocks) perform mating displays to attract females (hens) to their territory, giving a loud, harsh, two-syllable call followed by a softer whir of flapping wings that can be heard if one is close enough. These advertisements may attract several hens. Cocks frequently have several hens with which they mate. The cocks’ territorial displays can be heard most often in the spring, but they may “crow” throughout the year. Nests are made on the ground, and 7-15 eggs are typical in a clutch.

Human connections

Originally from Asia, pheasants can be bred in captivity and have been introduced in many countries as a gamebird. The Romans were some of the first to introduce it to Europe. It’s very popular in Great Britain. And although it’s not native there, it’s the official state bird of South Dakota.

Ecosystem connections

Pheasants, chickens, grouse, quail, and other ground-dwelling relatives evade their many predators by making sudden, explosive bursts of flight. Their short, blunt, deeply cupped wings are perfect for short, quick distances. Their wing shape and flying muscles are inefficient for long flights.