Common Names — Ringneck, Chinese pheasant, English pheasant.
Description The rooster. or cock, has a conspicuous white ring around the neck. an iridescent, greenish black head, and a red wattle around each eye. The breast is a dark reddish copper, the sides and back are a lighter copper, and the rump has a powdery blue patch. The tail is very long and pointed, and is barred along its entire length. The legs have a long, sharp spur.
The hen is mottled with brown and cream—colored feathers from head to tail. Toward the underside of the body, the mottling changes to a uniform beige. The tail is noticeably shorter than the rooster’s, and the legs do not have spurs. Juveniles resemble adults by their first fall. On young males, the leg spurs are shorter, more rounded and lighter colored than on adult roosters.
Movement- These birds spend most of their lives in an area of a few hundred acres. When grasslands become snow-covered in winter, pheasants move to heavier cover in cattail sloughs. woodlots, brushy draws and river bottoms.
Habitat- Pheasants are found through many of the western and northern states, and portions of the Canadian prairie provinces. They are best suited to areas that have a good supply of small grains, anti a mixture of grass lands, wetlands, and brushy or woody cover. The birds nest in most any grassy cover. including roadside ditches, railroad rights-of- way . hay fields. shelterbelts. and the edges of crop fields.
Food Habits — The diet consists mostly of small grains, such as corn, wheat, oats, milo, sorghum and soybeans, but pheasants also eat weed seeds and a variety of insects. The birds generally have a predictable daily routine, which may vary depending on weather. In the morning, they move from roosting cover to feeding areas, where they spend an hour or two. For the midday hours, they move to light, grassy loafing cover. In the late afternoon, pheasants move back to feeding areas, returning to roosting cover at sunset. Winter storms may keep the birds in heavy cover throughout the day.
Breeding — In spring, roosters spread out into loose breeding territories. They crow at roughly 3-minute intervals to draw in hens. To entice a hen into breeding, a rooster struts around her with feathers ruffled and wattles swollen.
In a spot with grassy cover at least 6 inches high, the hen scrapes an oval depression into the ground and lines it with dry plant material and feathers. She lays 6 to 15 olive-brown eggs, which hatch in 23 to 25 days. A hen sometimes lays her eggs in the nest of another pheasant.
Social Interaction — Although generally solitary, pheasants may congregate in feeding fields. And in severe winter weather, they may form groups of up to several dozen birds. Roosters communicate with a loud, raspy "kaw kawk," and sometimes let out a series of cackles when flushed or alarmed. Hens are silent.
Population — Increasing. Numbers have increased since 1985, when the Conservation Reserve Program began converting millions of acres of farm land into idle grasslands, providing new nesting cover for pheasants.
Hunting Strategies — Early in the season, you can successfully hunt pheasants in short-grass loafing areas, but later in the hunting season the birds retreat into denser cover, such as cattail sloughs and brushy islands in swamps. Hunting is most productive when you use a dog to locate the birds and find them once they are down. For more info see Pheasant Hunting Basics.
Eating Quality — Excellent; pheasants have tender, mild-tasting meat.