Phasianus colchicus Linnaeus
Description Adult male: Length: 90cm. Strikingly coloured, with a long, narrow, gracefully pointed tail 30-45 cm long. The back is marked in a beautiful complicated pattern, with deep maroon, cream, ochre, black and metallic emerald-green. Breast is a solid, rich copper-bronze with violet reflections, each feather tipped with black; abdomen black; rich ochre on flanks; head and neck, except crown, brilliant steely black with a more or less complete white collar (sometimes lacking entirely) around neck. Face is largely bare red skin; crown is metallic green-ochre with narrow, white superciliary line. Short, steely black ear tufts. Adult female: Entirely unlike the male; her tail is considerably shorter and her plumage is variegated browns and grays with underparts pale fawn.
Breeding Nest: On the ground, composed of dry grass and usually well concealed by vegetation, often placed in the open or along marginal growth. Eggs: 12-20 or more, greenish buff and unmarked. There are indications that, at times, more than one hen will lay in a single nest. Only one brood is raised, but if the first nest is lost another attempt will be made. The males are highly polygamous and the females alone care for the brood.
Range Mongolia and eastern China. Introduced and widely established in various parts of the world.
Remarks One of the greatest hazards to pheasants is the mowing-machine, for a female very frequently chooses a hayfield as her nest site. Evidence points to the loss of a high percentage of these nests and not infrequently mothers are killed or seriously maimed.
The pheasant's food is highly diversified. During the season of plenty its diet consists mainly of grain, weed seeds, fruits and insects. The crop of one I examined on 26 November 1968 was completely filled with the blue-gray fruit of the bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica). At other times of year, when the snow lies deep and the cold is severe for protracted periods, near-starvation will drive them to extremes. For instance, a few years ago at Lower Wolfville a farmer had disposed of 40-50 crow carcasses late in November by tossing them under some heavy, low-growing spruce boughs that flanked a hillside bordering his orchard. During the ensuing winter months he frequently flushed pheasants from under these spruces as he happened to be passing. He naturally assumed they had gathered there for shelter. It was not until the following spring that the truth was revealed, whereupon I was invited to see at first hand his macabre discovery crow skeletons all over the place, picked clean to the bone, and pheasant droppings numerous enough to suggest a well-used hen yard.
Of the many and varied locales in Nova Scotia where pheasants have been released in the hope that the species might become established, perhaps the most inappropriate is Sable Island, that treeless, windswept strip of sand which lies in the Atlantic about 160 km from the mainland. A number were liberated there in the summer of 1961 but remained scarce until 1964, when they began to increase with winter feeding. Numbers of nests and broods were seen in subsequent years, but they all died in winter 1970-71 with the cessation of chicken-rearing and the associated incidental food supply for the pheasants.
Hunting for Pheasant
occurs on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, with a bag limit of 1 birds per day. The season is 15 September to 29 December.