Find the best places to hunt Pheasants in Canada. Discover the PHeasant’s Physical Description, Range, Habitat, Food Source, Breeding Habits, and Status. 

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) Ring-necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus (I) LC

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Ring-necked Pheasant:

 ring necked pheasant range map of canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By:


The Ring-Necked Pheasant or Common Pheasant is probably the most known gamebird as well as the most introduced game species in the world. It was brought to Brittan by the Romans and through out its range in North America it is a non-native introduced species. There are over 30 subspecies of this bird and because of breeding variants from China and Brittan the current recognized classification is Phasianus Colchicus Linnaeus.

Here in Canada, it has representation in Southern portions of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. It also is present in eastern New Brunswick as well as all of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

For the most part it is considered to be an exotic species and is breed commercially for food consumption as well as game farms that offer them on a put and take basis.

It is a non-migrating bird that has a range of about 1.2 to 1.9 miles (2 to 3 km) and has a variety of cover requirements that differ according to the season.

Typical habitat is comprised of grasslands and farmlands and they don’t do well in areas of forest and dry areas. The later is exemplified by the fact that although they are capable of obtaining water from dew, insects, and moist vegetation. Most populations of the Ring-Necked Pheasant are centred around bodies of water.

Overall their cover requirement is for an open field of grass or agricultural stubble that is edged with hedges, ditches, marshes, trees or bushes for them to hide in.

Nesting and brooding cover needs to hold foraging material for her and her chicks. It must also be dense enough to avoid the detection of the nest and/or incubating hens from predators. Such cover would be an upright stand of grass that is about 12 to 14 inches (30.5 to 35.6 cm.) tall with some overhead cover and dead plant material about the nest. Here you will find the nest located at the base of a brush pile, shrub, tree, or fence post. It may also locate its nest in reeds, cattails or tall grass.

The pheasant will take advantage of patches of tall weeds, brush thickets, and rows of shrubs in which it will roost and escape the rays of the sun.

Its winter cover will usually be located within a mile (1.6 km) of its food source. This winter cover normally demands some type of overhead protection and is governed by the weather. Woody vegetation is preferred  on cold windy days where as weed patches are used when the snow is not as deep.

Description of Ring-necked Pheasant:

Ring-necked Pheasant

 Upland game ring necked pheasant
 Male Ring-necked Pheasant - USFWS - Flickr

Because of hybridization and captive breed stock being released into the wild the Ring-Necked Pheasant can come in a variety of colours that range from an almost white to almost black colour. The male member of the species has a golden-brown body with light coloured spots and sheens of iridescent green or purple, a dark brown long tail with light coloured stripes, a blackish coloured head with red wattles about its eye, and a conspicuous white neck ring. In contrast, the female is much smaller and plainer, being a light brown colour with dark spots over its body.

Body mass for males range from 1.1 to 6.6 lbs (0.5 to 3 kg.) and average 2.6 lbs. (1.2 kg.)  while females will average 2.0 lbs. (0.9 kg.).

With an overall length of 24 to 35 inches (60 to 89 cm.) the male is a long bird but 20 inches (50 cm)  can be accounted for in its tail. The female’s tail is somewhat short and will range from 20 to 25 inches (50 to 63 cm.) long with its tail taking up 7.9 inches (20 cm.) it its length.

The lifespan of a wild pheasant is that of about 3 years of age.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Ring-necked Pheasant:

The Ring-Necked Pheasant is and omnivore that primarily feeds on the ground during the early morning and evening. You may note them out in fields pecking at the ground and foraging for food. You may even try to approach it but it will likely run away from you in favour of cover that would likely be in a straight line from you to it. My experience is that it generally will not fly until you have almost stepped on it.

The Ring-Necked Pheasant consumes mainly plant material. Items that include buds, roots, seeds, grains, shoots, nuts, fruit, and berries, but it will also eat insects, small rodents, snakes, and small invertebrates when available.

Naturally occurring weed seeds that they eat are burdock, foxtail, ragweed, pine seeds, and sunflower seeds. Also, acorns, wild grape, apples, and blackberries are some of the fruits that it eats.

Agricultural crops like corn, wheat, barley, oats, and flax are normally waste seeds that are left over after harvesting.

Insects will include species like the wireworm, grasshopper, caterpillar, and cricket.

Small invertebrates will consist of snails. Of particular note here is that snails are often sought out by hens during the egg laying season in order help them with their egg laying production.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Ring-necked Pheasant:

Here in Canada the breeding season is normally from the end of April to the end of July. However data suggests that 51% of eggs are laid from the 1st week in May to the 1st week of June. Males set up crowing territories in which they attract and hold females. The male member of the species is polygynous by nature and may have a harem of several females who are monogamous to the male.

Before nesting it is common for a hen to lay eggs at random in what is referred to as a "dump" nests. This is a nest where eggs are laid but not incubated and have no chance of hatching. More than one  hen may use the same dump nest and she too will abandon her eggs. The occurrence dumping eggs seems to be more prevalent with high population densities of ring-necked pheasants.

Once the hen gets down to the business of constructing a nest that is usually close to water. The nest simply a small depression in the soil and may consists of grass, feathers, stalks of weeds, twigs, and roots. Here, she will lay 6 to 15 eggs (normally 10 to 12 eggs) in her nest. This is done at a rate of one egg per day until her clutch is complete. Then she will begin to Incubate the entire clutch leaving it in the morning and evening in order to feed. This process will her take 23 to 25 days to complete. Only one brood of chicks are raised during the breeding season but hens will often re-nest if the clutch is destroyed.

Chicks are born in an advanced state of development and are able to feed themselves almost immediately. They are able walking and following the hen to sources of food right after hatching and for the most part they are self-sufficient. It only take about 2 weeks and the chicks have developed their wing feathers and are fully independent at this point. However, the hen normally watches over them for the first 6 to 8 weeks of their lives.

For the first few weeks of their life, the chicks will forage almost exclusively on insects. Their diet is a high protein one that consists of insects like ants, crickets, curculio beetles, grasshoppers, potato beetles, squash bugs, and the larvae of all kinds of insects. The chicks' food habits will slowly change and by the time autumn rolls around they are much the same things that an adult does.

Both male and female members of this species are sexually mature at one year of age and will participate in next years breeding season if they survive. Mortality amongst pheasants is high as only 21 to 46% of the females and 7% of the males will survive. Loss of life can come from predation, hunting, hail storms and farming operations.

Status of Ring-necked Pheasant:

The Ring-necked pheasant was assessed by Birdlife International in 2015 and placed on the Red List as a species of Least Concern. This assessment was justified because it has a large range and despite the fact that its population is on the decline it is not rapid enough to warrant any further action.

Predation of pheasants can come from red foxes, domestic dogs and cats, coyotes, badgers, mink, weasels, striped skunks, raccoons, great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, rough-legged hawk, Cooper’s hawks, northern goshawks, peregrine falcons, northern harriers, and snapping turtles. Voles, rats, ground squirrels, jays and grackles can be added to this list as they are likely to take their eggs.

Predation from other animals can account for up to 80% of their mortality rate. The highest losses are likely to occur in the late winter or early spring as this is the time in which they are out in the open more in order to forage for food.



© Encyclopedia of Life – Source: 1049238/details

© Smithsonian Institution - Supplier: Robert Costello

© Wildscreen - Source: ARKive

© NatureServe - Source: NatureServe 

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors - Source: Animal Diversity Web

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes - Source: AnAge

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources - Source: IUCN 

Source: US Forest Service Fire Effects Information Service

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