Ringneck Pheasant

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Scientific name: Phasianus colchicus

Other common names: Ring-necked Pheasant; Common Pheasant; Chinese Ringneck Pheasant; True Pheasant

The basics:
The Ringneck Pheasant is one of the best-known gamebirds in the world, and it's probably the first bird to spring to mind whenever you hear the word, “pheasant.” The wild species is a huge and diverse group that includes at least 31 subspecies that naturally range over open upland habitat all over Asia. In addition to using natural scrublands, brush, and woodland edges, these adaptable birds can also thrive in agricultural fields or range.

As with other birds with a very long history in aviculture, captive-bred and semi-domesticated or feral Ringneck Pheasants represent a haphazard blend of various subspecies, so that the birds released for hunting in most areas do not represent a true form found in nature. If you're raising your birds for meat, eggs, or for hunting, then you probably don't much care as long as the birds are strong, healthy, and provide good sport. However, if you plan to raise exhibition quality birds with a pure bloodline down to the subspecies level, you're going to have to be very cautious and deal only with the most reputable breeders of such birds.

Note: Although there are no Ringneck Pheasant subspecies native to the United States, they have a long history here as an introduced bird – long enough that they have been named the state bird of South Dakota. In some states, you may need a permit to keep or breed them, so ask your local wildlife officer.

To describe the 31 different subspecies of the Ringneck Pheasant – not to mention all the different possible hybrids -- goes beyond the scope of a short article, but if you would like to learn more about one category important in American game management, check our article about the Bianchi's Pheasant hybrid.

Otherwise, if you are looking for pure bloodlines, you will need a good reference book and a good advisor. The generic adult male Ringneck Pheasant is instantly recognizable with his red face, shimmering green head, and two small false ear tufts. The long tail represents about half the length of the chickenlike body. Although “Ringneck” is the traditional English nickname for the bird, there are many subspecies that lack the white ring around the neck, and hybrids can also have more or less of a white collar. The female is a more easily camouflaged mottled brown bird.

There are a number of mutations, including utility jumbo or white birds bred for gourmets and fine restaurants. The melanistic or black mutation first appeared in 1880, and now it occurs even in the wild in Europe. Greens, silvers, blues, pied, buffs, and many more may also be encountered.

Average weight:
0.9 - 2 kilograms (2 - 4.5 lbs.)

2 - 7 years

Ringneck Pheasants became popular in part because they are hardy, adaptable, healthy birds that provide good sport. However, any species that is bred in such numbers can represent an opportunity to disease organisms. It is crucial to have a good avian veterinarian experienced with pheasants to advise you on the necessary vaccinations, preventive medications, and so on required to keep your birds in the best of health. Coccidiosis , which can be detected by a hint of blood in the droppings, is a common problem. Get immediate help from a vet if you notice this symptom. And work hard to avoid it in the first place by keeping the pens, feeders, and waterers scrupulously clean.

Behavior / temperament:
Ringneck Pheasants make great sport because they are alert, wary birds that can respond instantly to escape danger. Where they are not hunted in the wild, such as some areas of England, they can become surprisingly tame, and you may hear the male's distinctive cough very close indeed. However, despite this evidence of their adaptable nature, confined pheasants may remain skittish and somewhat nervous. They really do need more cover and space to be calm than they may have been offered in the past.

How you house your Ringnecks depends on the purpose of your Ringnecks. Obviously, if you're developing color mutations, you would need to keep the pairs or trios in pens, in order to control who mates with who. The pen should be generous, with plantings to allow for shade and cover, as well as an area for dust bathing and sunning. They are relatively resistant to extremes of weather, so the shelter can be inexpensive – but it must be secure against hungry predators.

Many Ringnecks today are being raised for reintroduction or for hunting programs. These birds will need special pens, also with plenty of space and cover, to allow them to acclimate to the weather and to develop their powers of flight. Pheasants are tasty birds, so they also need to be protected from a large number of predators, from snakes to raccoons to various hawks and eagles. It's strongly recommended that you work with a more advanced hobbyist or even a professional breeder to make sure that you're providing a good habitat for your birds. If you free range your birds, learn how from an expert, or else you may just be putting out a food table for your local raptors.

Ringneck Pheasants are not particularly difficult to feed. In the wild, they would forage for a rather omnivorous diet of grass, sprouts, and other vegetable matter, as well as whatever likely insects or bugs they could catch. The backbone of the captive diet is usually a high quality game bird crumble or pheasant pellet, supplemented with seeds and grains; sprouts; chopped fruits like apples and grapes; milky seeding heads of grasses and other greens; and the usual commercially available live foods like mealworms, waxworms, and crickets. Make sure they always have a source of clean water.

Written by Elaine Radford


beautiful colors, important commercial bird, excellent roasting bird, game bird


wild bird, flighty, season male pheasants


sturdy bird, subtle gamey flavour, upland game hunting, mildly gamy flavor

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