Ring-Necked Pheasants

This gallery contains 4 photos. On a sunny but relatively birdless Good Friday 2017, our encounter with a magnificent male Ring-Necked Pheasant in one of least likely places you’d expect to find this strikingly dressed gamebird — the Delta Heritage Air Park (an old, small, but still active private airport) — certainly made for a great consolation prize. It was neither our first encounter with an RNPH, nor, at 35-40 feet away, the closest one, but it was much better lit than our previous encounters.

© WHSIM Ring-Necked Pheasant 5 (lge).jpg
did someone say turkey? male RNPH at the Air Park (Apr 14, 2017)
f/13, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 640

Ring-Necked Pheasants are not native to North America; these Asian grouse were introduced here in the late 19th century by hunters. Solitary males can be seen throughout South Delta. I have never seen them take flight; they to prefer foraging on foot in wide open areas like plowed fields and stretches of grass that seem to offer them meager protection from potential predators. I have always wondered why and how the striking coloration came to be. Bright, almost burnished gold/copper plumage, iridescent black/green heads (with a white bare “shaved” patch running down the top of the head to the back of the neck), crimson wattles, white necklace, and tapered tails (which can, in the case of the males, be longer than their bodies) must make them easy targets for hunters.

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male RNPH not looking amused at the Air Park (Apr 14, 2017)
f/14, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 500

During a drive on a farm road in Ladner a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to encounter (but alas, not photograph) a female Ring-Necked Pheasant and her half-a-dozen chicks crossing an old farm road. Cars or no cars, they were in no particular hurry to accelerate the pace of their progress (or answer the question, why did the chicken cross the road). Females and their young are brown with dark patterning on the wings and back. The male we met most recently was a good 35-40 feet away on the grounds of the Air Park, with nary another bird in sight, but he did not seem the least bit ruffled to learn that two pairs of camera lenses were focused on his every move. I was to later learn that this male was a resident of the Air Park!

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closeup of another male RNPH wandering onto a farm in Ladner (Mar 2, 2015)
f/6.3, 1/250, 500mm, ISO 1250

He was content to wander the grounds in search of food (staples to his diet include grass, seed, and insects). Nevertheless, every few moments, he would stop, flap his wings, and do his best impression of a barnyard rooster. The red wattles on his cheeks and ear tufts did seem to infer some kind of distant resemblance to the fabled guardian of the coop. Like domesticated chickens, RNPHs jealously guard a harem of females during breeding season. The male RNPH below looks like he got into a scrap with another RNPH, and lost both his tail and dignity in the process. The loss of the tail feathers may also be attributed to other factors. These gamebirds may pluck (pick) their own tail feathers for a number of reasons (anything from diet to stress).

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another (and tailless) male RNPH, also near the same farm above (Mar 6, 2015)
f/6.3, 1/500, 500mm, ISO 250

Learn more about the Ring-Necked Pheasant by visiting its Cornell Lab of Ornithology allaboutbirds.org profile here.

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13 thoughts on “Ring-Necked Pheasants

  1. Wow! Awesome find! I don’t think I’d ever seen one in the wild (maybe fleetingly but not enough to register it in my memory, though, granted, I have a poor memory). He’s quite the splendid specimen! I love that first photo of him in the midst of wing-flapping action!

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  2. They are an interesting looking bird. Often they screech and make a loud fluttering noise which is annoying early in the morning when they pump themselves up on a rock. We had them outside my old house here in Nova Scotia and I heard and saw some in a Dartmouth park recently. They are plentiful here. Usually they are skittish and run off but if really afraid they will fly. They are a cross between a rooster and a peacock.

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    • I am glad I don’t have to listen to their wakeup call! 🙂 yes, they are quite skittish but the most recent male I encountered had enough space between him and us that he was not panicked.

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    • you’re welcome, Noelle! I was impressed by the most recently encountered male’s facial wattles and size … truly a gamebird who has managed to outsmart the hunters and grow to become a magnificent representative of his species! 🙂

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