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Ring-necked Pheasant

Phasianus colchicus ORDER: GALLIFORMES FAMILY: PHASIANIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Ring-necked Pheasants stride across open fields and weedy roadsides in the U.S. and southern Canada. Males sport iridescent copper-and-gold plumage, a red face, and a crisp white collar; their rooster-like crowing can be heard from up to a mile away. The brown females blend in with their field habitat. Introduced to the U.S. from Asia in the 1880s, pheasants quickly became one of North America’s most popular upland game birds. Watch for them along roads or bursting into flight from brushy cover.

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Gamebirds
Gamebirds
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Ring-necked Pheasant is a large, chicken-like bird with a long, pointed tail. It has fairly long legs, a small head, long neck, and plump body.

  • Color Pattern

    Male Ring-necked Pheasants are gaudy birds with red faces and an iridescent green neck with a bold white ring. The male’s very long tail is coppery with thin, black bars. Females are brown with paler scaling on the upperparts; buff or cinnamon underparts with black spotting on the sides; and thin, black bars on their tails.

  • Behavior

    They forage on the ground in fields, where they eat waste grain, other seeds, and insects when available. Ring-necked Pheasants usually walk or run and only occasionally resort to flying, usually when disturbed at close range by humans or other predators. Males give a loud, cackling display that can be heard over long distances.

  • Habitat

    Ring-necked Pheasants are birds of agricultural areas intermixed with areas of taller vegetation, which they use for cover. Look for them along rural roadsides, in overgrown or recently harvested fields, and in brushy areas and hedgerows.

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Field MarksHelp

  • Male

    Ring-necked Pheasant

    Male
    • Distinctive large gamebird, usually found in open areas or corn-fields
    • Very long, tapered tail
    • Male shows rich iridescent green head with bright red bare patch around eyes
    • White collar contrasts with deep chestnut breast and golden flanks
    • © David Stephens, Denver, Colorado, March 2012
  • Male

    Ring-necked Pheasant

    Male
    • Large gamebird with long, tapered tail and multicolored plumage
    • Usually found in open areas or fields
    • Iridescent green on head with bright red bare skin around eyes
    • Multiple contrasting patterns on wings, back, and breast
    • © Gary Tyson, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, October 2011
  • Female

    Ring-necked Pheasant

    Female
    • Large, stocky gamebird with long tail
    • Female much duller than male but still heavily patterned
    • Mostly golden-buff overall
    • © Ron Kube, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, January 2010

Similar Species

  •  

    Sharp-tailed Grouse

     
    • Similar to female Ring-necked Pheasant but smaller and stockier
    • Shorter tail
    • Colder, pale-gray overall
    • White under-tail
    • © CVbirder, Richmond, Utah, January 2011
  • Rufous-morph male

    Ruffed Grouse

    Rufous-morph male
    • Smaller and stockier than female Ring-necked Pheasant
    • Shorter neck and short, rounded tail with black band at tip
    • Crested head
    • © Tim Lenz, New York, April 2009

Similar Species

The brightly patterned male Ring-necked Pheasant is hard to mistake; female pheasants are browner, although their long tails give them a distinctive shape. Sharp-tailed Grouse are smaller than female pheasants, and they have a slightly peaked crest. They have darker upperparts with white scaling, dark scaling on the chest, a white lower belly, and feathered legs. Both the Greater Prairie-Chicken and Lesser Prairie-Chicken are smaller than Ring-necked Pheasants. They have shorter tails and more strongly barred plumage.

Find This Bird

Because they live in tall vegetation and old fields, Ring-necked Pheasants can be hard to see even in places where they’re numerous. Keep an eye out for them running between patches of cover as you travel through agricultural areas—particularly along dirt roads where the birds often forage in weedy areas. Winter is a good time to look for Ring-necked Pheasants, when vegetation is at a minimum, crops have been harvested, and some areas have a snowy backdrop for the birds to stand out against. In spring and summer, listen and watch for males performing their calling and wing-flapping display in open areas.