Ring-necked Pheasant

Ring-necked Pheasant

Phasianus colchicus Order: Galliformes   Family: Phasianidae

Phasianidae are ground living birds, including turkeys, grouse, partridges, chickens, and pheasants.  

Overview

With plenty of topics to address during programs and a flashy appearance, the Ring-necked Pheasant can be a good addition to an education team. Staff does need to consider lack of motivation during breeding season when planning out program needs.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

The ring- necked pheasant is native to Asia but has been introduced to Europe, Australia, the United States and Australia. Preferred habitat in the United States includes agricultural areas bordered with grassy ditches, marshes, or woodlands.

Longevity

In their native habitat, ring necked pheasants can live up to three years if they survive their first winter. Under human care, their median life expectancy is 11-18 years.

Ecosystem Role

Pheasants are seed dispersers and help to manage the insect population. They also serve as prey for larger carnivores.

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Life Cycle Natural History Relevant Information 
    • In the fall, pheasants are social and live in flocks up to 50 individuals. These flocks can be mixed gender or single sex. However, during the spring, males become very territorial. In early spring, males choose breeding territories and patrol and call to establish the boundaries of their space. Males protect a harem of up to a dozen females. 

o Females can have one or two broods per year with 7-15 eggs in a clutch. Eggs are incubated for 23-28 days and young hatch covered in down with their eyes open. They can follow their mother and feed for themselves immediately. Young stay with their mother for about 7 weeks, despite being capable of short flights within 12 days of hatching.

  • Temperature, Humidity, Light Cycles
    • These birds are habitat generalists and can be found almost everywhere excluding dense rainforests, alpine forests, or extremely dry habitats. Pheasants prefer fields with access to brushy cover as they are most comfortable on the ground.
  • Substrate
    •  
  • Social Housing/Colony Management
    • Pheasant breeding season typically extends from mid- March to June. Males attract females by crowing and wing- whirring displays. Females prefer males with long tails and ear tufts and black spots on their wattle. Feeding rituals also help to win over females.
    • Males who establish their territory seem to be more dominant over males that establish territory later in the season.
    • Before copulation, males perform a lateral display, where he approaches the female with his head down. He walks in a semi-circle in front of her with his near wing drooped and his wattle erect.
  • Other General Housing Requirements or Management information
    •  

Diet Requirements

  • Life Cycle Relevant Information 
    • Diet in the Wild
    • Pheasants eat grasses, grains, leaves, roots, fruits, nuts, and insects.
    • Pheasants can consume poison ivy and sumac.
    • While laying eggs, females consume calcium rich snail shells.
  •  Diet under human care
    • Akron Zoo: our pheasant gets wild game pellets, mealworms, waxworms, and dried fruit. 
      • His highest quality food item for training is waxworms.

Veterinary Concerns

  •  

Enrichment & Training

Enrichment

  • Behavioral Relevant Information
    • Pheasants take dust baths to help remove oils and dead feathers.
  • Environmental Enrichment 
  • Behavioral Enrichment 
    • Akron Zoo: their pheasant interacts well with a pvc feeder.
  • Schedule 
    • Akron Zoo: Pheasant gets enriched three times per week rotating through different categories. Akron Zoo’s enrichment categories include rest, forage/ manipulate, self-directed behavior, species specific goals, explore/ locomotion, sensory, scent, and social/ human interactions.
  • Other Enrichment Resources 
    • Akron Zoo: If pheasant is being enriched outside, the current approved temperatures at Akron Zoo are 30-85ºF.

Training

  • Behaviors Trained
    • Akron Zoo: their pheasant knows both a voluntary kennel and voluntary scale to simplify husbandry.
      • For programs, he comes out of his kennel on a table, eats from a large dish, and returns to his kennel.
      • For our summer show, he comes out of his kennel, runs to center stage, jumps up onto a “tree trunk’ and returns to his kennel. Previously, he ran across stage, pulled a lever (to turn on the lights), and returned to his kennel. 
  • Reinforcers used & schedule of reinforcement 
    • Akron Zoo: His diet is offered as a reinforcer during both programming and shows.

Other

Colony or Breeding Management

Individual Identification

  • Males are brightly colored with long tails, red faces, and green and iridescent purple heads. Females have brown mottled plumage and do not have long tails.

Programmatic Information

Messaging Themes

  • Akron Zoo: Programs the pheasant can go on include:
    • “In Living Color”- animals with colors to attract a mate, blend in, or warn predators  
    • “Feathers, Furs, and Scales”- comparing the different types of animals
    • “What’s For Dinner”- about the food web
    • “Backyard Wildlife”- animals students can find locally
    • “Bust a Move” – the unique way animals move
    • “Care for a Critter” – all the things animals need to survive and thrive at the zoo
    • “Training 101”- what techniques do we use to help our animals learn new behaviors and why do we train
    • “Super hero”- amazing feats animals are capable of (pheasants can flush straight into the air at 40 miles per hour!)

Threats and Conservation Status

  • Ring necked pheasants are considered common in their range, with Partners in Flight estimating their breeding population at 50 million worldwide. Cars and farm machinery are the biggest danger to pheasants. Although hunters kill many thousands of males (sometimes several million in a single season), the impact is reduced because many females tend to breed with only one male at a time.

Interesting Natural History Information

  • Pheasants and other members of the grouse family have powerful breast muscles which are used for bursts of power to help the bird escape danger. They can flush at 40 miles per hour almost perfectly straight up in the air.
  • Sometimes female pheasants lay their eggs in the nest of other ground dwelling birds such as the Greater Prairie Chicken or the Gray Partridge. Males that are raised by the wrong species imprint on them and can be seen courting the wrong females and defending their territory from the wrong males. 

Did you know…

  • Pheasants were successfully introduced to the United states in 1881 for game hunting. First attempts date back to the 1730’s when a few birds were released by the governors of New York and New Hampshire. Some populations thrive on their own while others have individuals added annually.
  • Pheasants take dust baths to remove oil, dirt, parasites, old feathers, and the sheaths of new feathers.
  • The South Dakota state bird in the Ring- Necked Pheasant!

Handling & Presentation Tips

  •  

Use Guidelines

  • Akron Zoo: The pheasant is approved for indoor use only, as Akron’s is fully flighted. He is presented on a table with a tablecloth and a black rubber bowl for him to feed out of. The pheasant comes out of the kennel, feeds from the bowl, and returns to the kennel at the end of the session.

o Handlers are tasked with monitoring the pheasant for signs of stress, including refusing to come out of the kennel, flying off, open mouth breathing/panting, and vocalizing.

  • Handlers judge his motivation during breeding season as he is often thinking about lady pheasants more than the rewards we are offering for a session. If he does not appear to be very motivated, staff often chooses another animal to work with.

Pubic Contact and Interaction Guidelines

  • Visitors are not permitted to touch the pheasant.

Transportation Tips

  • Akron Zoo: The pheasant travels in a carrier with a rubber car mat inside to help him maintain his footing. He is covered with a kennel cover for privacy and to reduce stress during transportation and the program, but while in the van, the sides and door are uncovered for ventilation.

Crating Techniques

·     Akron Zoo: The pheasant travels in a carrier with a rubber car mat inside to help him maintain his footing. He is covered with a kennel cover for privacy and to reduce stress during transportation and the program, but while in the van, the sides and door are uncovered for ventilation.

·     Akron Zoo: pheasant self-kennels for part of his diet.

Temperature Guidelines

  • Akron Zoo: their pheasant is not approved for outdoor programs. He can go out for enrichment when the temperatures are between 30-85ºF.

Acquisition Information

Resources

Contributors and Citations

  •  Akron Zoo

Comments from the Rating System

Top Photo Credit: Akron Zoo