Over 49 different types of pheasant species have been identified as pheasants. So what makes a pheasant a pheasant? Bird taxonomists agree that pheasants all have the following traits:
- A major color difference between the hen and the cock
- Adult cocks have facial combs or wattles
- Adult pheasant roosters have spurs
- Pheasants in general have long tails especially the roosters
Pheasants have a big advantage when it comes to game-management. Unlike quail and chuckar it is easy to distinguish between a hen and a cock even while the birds are in flight. This trait allows state game agencies to set restrictions on harvesting hens allowing more hens that are available to breed each year. Pheasants are polygamous and fewer cocks are needed to breed hens and maintain a healthy pheasant population.
During the matting season roosters will often call "kaw, kaw" every three or so minutes. The roosters call in this manor to attract mates and claim or protect territory. Roosters attract and breed hens by strutting with their wattles swollen and bright red, ear tufts standing on end and feathers ruffled much like a tom turkey.
Hens lay eggs in the early summer in a small hole that the hen scratches in the ground and then lines with feathers and grass. Once the eggs hatch the hen will stay with the brood for 2-3 months until the young pheasants are close to full grown. If the nest is destroyed before the eggs hatch a hen will usually create another nest and lay more eggs but each time the nest is destroyed she lays a less eggs.
The pheasant is not native to the United States. It is believed that the pheasant originated in Asia. In 1882 26 ring-necked pheasants were released in the state of Oregon. The ringneck pheasant is the only pheasant species that has been successfully established in North America although many of the other pheasant species are raised and used on private pheasant hunting clubs. Today the wild ring neck pheasant can be found in 39 US states and 7 Canadian provinces.
Unlike quail pheasants do not form coveys and unless concentrated on a food source pheasants are not often found in large groups. Pheasants primarily eat grains such as corn, wheat, oats, soybeans milo and sorghum. They also eat weed seeds and insects.
Pheasants rely on their eyesight and hearing and special pads on their feet that sense vibration to escape hunters and predators. A small hole behind the pheasants eye is the pheasants ear. Studies have shown that pheasants have much better hearing then humans. That may explain why it's not uncommon for birds to run out of the other side of the field when the hunters car door closes.
A pheasant can spend their entire life in a area of less then one square mile as long as all the conditions needed for survival are in that area- cover, food and water. The pheasants diet is made up of grains and crop fields such as corn, soybeans and oats and is supplemented with weed seeds and insects.