Photo: A ring-necked pheasant warily crosses a gravel road

More commonly found on the ground, ring-necked pheasants can take rapidly to the air when startled.

Photograph by George F. Mobley

Map

Map: Ring-necked pheasant range

Ring-Necked Pheasant Range

Audio

Fast Facts

Type:
Bird
Diet:
Omnivore
Average life span in the wild:
10 to 20 months
Size:
21 to 36 in (53 to 91 cm)
Weight:
2.9 lbs (1.3 kg)
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Ring-Necked Pheasant compared with adult man

Ring-necked pheasants are native to China and East Asia, but they have been successfully introduced in other parts of the world, including North America.

Males are vibrantly colored with blue-green heads, red face wattles, and distinctive white neck rings. Females are a rather plain buff brown, but both sexes have long, pointed tails. These beautiful birds are wily in the wild and much sought after by game hunters. Thousands of them are harvested each year, but management and reintroduction programs boost many populations.

Males (also known as "cocks") establish harems of hens—as many as a dozen female birds. Each spring a male delineates and defends his territory and his harem from aggressive rivals. Such encounters can lead to vicious battles.

The birds prefer fields and farmlands with brushy cover, though they also inhabit woodland undergrowth and some wetlands. Females nest in fields or in border habitat and lay a dozen or more eggs, which they incubate with no help from the cock. Young pheasants grow up quickly and can fly within two weeks. They will remain with their mother for six or seven weeks. Many pheasant eggs are destroyed by predators or by humans (particularly in farm country), and young birds also have a high mortality rate.

In autumn, ring-necked pheasants form flocks in which they will live until the following spring.

These birds are most comfortable on the ground, where they forage for grains, seeds, berries, insects, and, occasionally, small animals. They can fly and launch themselves airborne with an abrupt, noisy takeoff, but typically run from trouble. Pheasant flights are merely short-distance dashes for cover.

Bird Features

  • Photo: Atlantic puffin

    Atlantic Puffin

    Get to know this coastal bird with the colorful beak. Learn more about the amazing “sea parrot.”

  • Illustration: Great horned owl

    What's That Bird?

    Identify your backyard visitors in a flash! Just answer four simple questions to search our database of 150 backyard birds common to Canada and the U.S.

  • Photo: A brown pelican

    Pelican

    Explore the pelican’s prodigious pouch. Find out how these famous fishers bring home the catch of the day.

  • Photo: Close-up of a duck

    Bird Pictures

    Get right up close to 12 colorful new bird galleries, featuring photos from My Shot members and classic art from the NG archives.

Animals

From the Magazine

  1. Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.

  2. Photo: Silent Ural owl

    Estonia's Ural Owls

    Photographer Sven Začek provides an intimate view of this large raptor.