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In this photo, the two legs on the left came from birds that had survivd at least one winter. The legs on the right came from young-of-the-year birds.

Aging A Wild Pheasant

Have you ever wanted to know how old that ringneck rooster you just shot is?  Well, we can help you with that. 

Pheasants can be effectively aged by looking at their spurs.  Early in the fall, an adult pheasant will exhibit a much longer spurs  than a juvenile pheasant. As the pheasant season progresses, however, the spurs of a young male pheasant continue to grow can become as long as the spur of a adult bird by late in the fall. Later in the season, the color, shape, and texture of the spur becomes the determining factor for pheasant age. 

Most pheasants harvested across the country are juvenile birds according to fish and game biologists.  Almost 80% of pheasants taken by hunters are 1 year old or less.

Unlike other upland birds you can not use a pheasant wing to determine age of a pheasant.  Each year both adult pheasants and juenile pheasants moult their main wing feathers.  Waterfowl and grouse replace their wing feathers in a sequence and a wing can be used to determine age for these types of birds.

Look at the table below to help determine how old a rooster pheasant is based on the spur:

Spur Characteristic Pheasant Age
Adult Pheasant
Young Pheasant
Spur Color
very dark spurs
light spurs
Spur Shape
very sharp spurs
usually straight along edges, point more blunt
Spur Texture
the spur is hard with a glossy surface

the spur has a soft surface and shows a lack of luster

According to Game and Fish Department pheasant biologist Lowell Tripp, If there is any doubt as to age based on spur length, look at the spur appearance for the deciding factor. If the roosters spur is dull-colored, and the point is blunt and soft, the bird is a juvenile. If the spur is black, shiny and sharply pointed, the bird is an adult.