Monday, October 20, 2014

Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

Field marks: (85 cm.) Large, pointed tail, brown, red and green head, white neck ring
环颈雉 – huán-jǐng zhì- ‘ring-necked pheasant’
雉鸡 – zhì-jī – ‘pheasant fowl’ (M&P, Atlas, Alternative in Cheng)

The Common Pheasant is the most familiar “game bird”, one of several chicken-like birds which are often hunted by humans for sport, in Europe and North America. In North America, it is usually called, the “Ring-necked Pheasant”. In Europe and North America, it is probably the commonest game bird as well. All the members of this species presently found in Europe and North America were imported from China. In China today, the Common Pheasant, despite its name, is becoming increasingly uncommon due to local persecution.

There are many subspecies of this bird in China, and there are some differences in the appearance of these subspecies. The males of all subspecies, however, are easily identifiable as Common Pheasants. All have the signature mottled brown body, greenish-black head and red orbital skin on the face. The males of most subspecies have a white neck ring. The females of all subspecies are dull-looking brown birds which are easily confused with females of other pheasant species.

The Common Pheasant is found throughout the Eastern half of China where it is a non-migratory, resident species. As this bird tends to stay close to the ground among thick vegetation, it is more often heard than seen. Its call is a two part, loud coughing followed by an audible whir of the bird’s wings.

The Common Pheasant prefers grasslands near water, but it is extremely adaptable and can live in woodlands, marshlands and cultivated areas, also. The males of all pheasant species are polygamous and have harems of females with which they breed. The Common Pheasant nests on the ground and the female lays a large clutch of usually around ten eggs.

This species is omnivorous and will seeds, fruits, insects, and even vertebrates such as lizards, snakes, and even small mammals and other birds.
Photo by Lukasz Lukasik

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