Phasianus colchicus, also known as the common pheasant, is native to Asia, and was introduced in North America in the 1880s.
Due to their adaptability to many climates, and ability to breed in captivity, this well-known and widespread game bird can now be found across the globe. Between hybridization and captive breeding, there are about 30 subspecies.
The basis for this bird’s successful proliferation is its game bird status. Since stone age times, and the Roman Empire too, this bird has been a popular game bird for hunters, for sport and food, then and now.
As a birder, I can never get enough of this exotic bird, and search earnestly for their presence when birding in marshes. The showy male has a white neck ring and numerous colors, spotted patterns, a bright red wattle, and a long, streaked tail. Gold, brown, green, purple, white, and red adorn the male; while the female has gold and brown with elaborately patterned markings.
They forage in fields on grain and seeds, and have an expansive diet including fruit, berries, invertebrates, and small vertebrates. More pheasant info here.
In spite of their kaleidoscopic colors, pheasant are skillful at hiding in the tall grass. It is common to hear their call and lifting wings as they move further out of photographic range. Click here for what we hear.
I also get a thrill out of hearing their cackling call on television shows. It is frequently used as a general wildlife background sound byte in fictional British mysteries and other movies. Sound engineers use it to evoke a frightening, mysterious presence.
Whether I am birding in the marshes, or watching British mysteries, two much-enjoyed activities, I am delightfully hosted by this elegant bird.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander unless noted otherwise