Common Pheasant

Common Pheasant

Pheasant, Ring-necked pheasant (North America), Game pheasant, English pheasant, Chinese pheasant, Japanese pheasant, Peihana

Phasianus colchicus
Population size
160-220 mln
Life Span
3-18 yrs
90 km/h
0.5-3 kg
50-89 cm
56-86 cm

The Common pheasant is a colorful bird renowned for the striking plumage of the male. It is native to Asia but has been widely introduced elsewhere as a game bird. In parts of its range, namely in places where none of its relatives occur such as in Europe, where it is naturalized, it is simply known as the "pheasant". The Common pheasant is a well-known gamebird, among those of more than regional importance perhaps the most widespread and ancient one in the whole world. It is one of the world's most hunted birds; it has been introduced for that purpose to many regions and is also common on game farms where it is commercially bred.


Common pheasants are native to Asia and parts of Europe; their original range extends from the Balkans, the Black and Caspian Seas to Manchuria, Siberia, Korea, Mainland China, and Taiwan. These birds can be found in woodland, farmland, scrub, and wetlands. In their natural habitat, Common pheasants live in grassland near the water with small copses of trees.

Common Pheasant habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Common pheasants are gregarious birds and outside the breeding season form loose flocks. Wherever they are hunted they are always timid once they associate humans with danger, and will quickly retreat for safety after hearing the arrival of hunting parties in the area. Common pheasants are diurnal and spend most of their time on the ground. They are able to fly in short distances but they prefer to run. If startled, however, they can suddenly burst upwards at great speed, with a distinctive "whirring" wing sound and often giving 'kok kok kok' calls to alert other members of the flock. Their flight speed is only 43-61 km/h (27-38 mph) when cruising but when chased they can fly up to 90 km/h (56 mph).

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Common pheasants are omnivores. They eat a wide variety of animal and vegetable type-food, like fruit, seeds, grain, mast, berries, and leaves as well as a wide range of invertebrates, such as leatherjackets, ant eggs, wireworms, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and other insects. They will also consume small vertebrates like lizards, field voles, small mammals, and occasionally small birds.

Mating Habits

22-27 days
15 weeks
8-15 eggs

Common pheasants are polygynous and males are often accompanied by a harem of several females which they attract with their beautiful plumage. These birds nest solely on the ground in scrapes, lined with some grass and leaves, frequently under dense cover or a hedge. Occasionally they will nest in a haystack, or old nest left by other birds they roost in sheltered trees at night. Females produce a clutch of around 8 to 15 pale olive in color eggs, that are laid over a 2-3 week period from April to June. The incubation period is about 22-27 days. The chicks stay near the hen (female) for several weeks but are able to leave the nest when only a few hours old. After hatching they grow quickly, flying after 12-14 days, and resembling adults by only 15 weeks of age. Young Common pheasant usually become reproductively mature and start breeding when they are 1 year old.


Population threats

Common pheasants are widespread throughout their range; however, locally some populations of these birds suffer from habitat loss and uncontrolled hunting.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the global population size of the Common pheasant is around 160,000,000-219,999,999 mature individuals. The European population consists of 4,140,000-5,370,000 pairs, which equates to 8,290,000-10,700,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Due to their diet habits, Common pheasants help to control insect populations and also disperse seeds of various plants and fruits that they consume. These birds also serve as a food item for local predators such as foxes, badgers, coyotes, raccoons, birds of prey, and even to Snappin turtles.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The scientific name of the Common pheasant 'colchicus' is Latin for 'of Colchis' (modern-day Georgia), a country on the Black Sea where these birds became known to Europeans.
  • In North America, these colorful birds are known as Ring-necked pheasants. It is the state bird of South Dakota, one of only three U.S. state birds that is not a species native to the United States.
  • There are many color forms of the male Common pheasant which range in color from nearly white to almost black in some melanistic examples.
  • When the weather is bad, pheasants can stay in their roost for several days even without food.
  • Pheasants are able to swim and they also frequently take dust baths in order to remove dead skin cells, excess oil, and old feathers.
  • During winter when food is not easy to find, pheasants can dig through a foot (30 cm) of snow to get something edible.


1. Common Pheasant on Wikipedia -
2. Common Pheasant on The IUCN Red List site -

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