| Pheasants are a group of large birds in the order Galliformes. In North America they are hunted as game.|
Pheasant are characterised by strong sexual dimorphism, with males being highly ornate with bright colours and adornments such as wattles and long tails. Males are usually larger than the females, and have longer tails than them. Males play no part in rearing the young.
There are 35 species of pheasant in 11 different genera. The best-known is the Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) which is widespread throughout the world in introduced feral populations and in farm operations. Various other pheasant species are popular in aviaries, such as the Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus).
In many parts of the United States and the United Kingdom the pheasant is seen as the premier upland game bird. Some states in the US derive significant revenue from pheasant hunting. In most states only the males are legally huntable.
Generally they are pursued by hunters employing gun dogs. The dogs help the hunter find, flush, and retrieve birds when they have been shot. Retrievers, spaniels, and pointing breeds are used to hunt pheasant, although many pointing dogs have trouble with a bird that runs as readily as a pheasant.
The Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), otherwise known as the Ring-necked Pheasant or Chinese Pheasant is a gamebird in the pheasant family Phasianidae of the order Galliformes, gallinaceous birds.
The adult pheasant is 50-90 cm in length with a long tail, often accounting for half the total length. The male (cock or rooster) has barred bright brown plumage and green, purple and white markings, often including a white ring around the neck, and the head is green with distinctive red patches. This bird is also called the Common or English Pheasant, or just Pheasant. The males are polygynous and are often accompanied by a harem of several females.
The female (hen) is much less showy, with a duller mottled brown plumage all over, similar to that of the partridge. The birds are found on wooded land and scrub. They feed on the ground on grain, leaves and invertebrates, but roost in trees at night. They nest on the ground, producing a clutch of around ten eggs over a two-three week period in April to June. The incubation period is about 23-26 days. The chicks stay near the hen for several weeks after hatching but grow quickly, resembling adults by only 15 weeks of age.
While pheasants are able short-distance fliers, they prefer to run: but if startled they can suddenly burst upwards at great speed, with a distinctive "whirring" wing sound. Their flight speed is only 27 to 38 mph when cruising but when chased they can fly up to 60 mph. They are native to Asia but have been widely introduced elsewhere, where they are bred to be hunted and are shot in great numbers.
If eaten the meat is somewhat tough and dry, so the carcasses were often hung for a time to improve the meat by slight decomposition, as with most other game. Modern cookery generally uses moist roasting or farm-raised female birds.
Pheasant farming is a common practice, and is sometimes done intensively. Birds are supplied both to hunting preserves/estates and restaurants, with smaller numbers being available for home cooks. Pheasant farms have some 10 million birds in the U.S. and 35 million in the United Kingdom.
The bird was brought to Britain around the 10th century but became locally extinct in the early 17th century; it was reintroduced in the 1830s and is now widespread. Repeated reintroduction has made the pheasant a very variable species in regard to size and plumage. Pheasants were introduced in North America in 1913, being released at Dog Ear Butte. They are most common in the Great Plains, where they are often seen in hay, grass wheat, and CRP fields. A preferred nesting site for them is along fence rows, wheat, and under old machinery.
The Green Pheasant of Japan is very similar to Common Pheasant, but the males have greenish plumage. The Ring-Necked Pheasant is the state bird of South Dakota, one of only three US state birds that is not a species native to the United States.
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