The pheasants are booming

The male common pheasant is one of our most gaudy birds, but although a long-standing introduction, it is not a native.

Friday, 16th October 2020, 4:45 pm
A cock pheasant

The numbers in the wild in Britain are hard to estimate since millions – maybe 20-30 million – are released from breeding pens each summer for the autumn shoot of our most evocative gamebird.

There may be about two million wild females.

The common ring-necked pheasant was introduced from Asia by the Romans and then again by the Normans.

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With many varieties around the world, our modern populations exhibit a great number of different and quite striking colour forms.

I think the bird I photographed is a ‘Kansas (Thunder) Cross Pheasant’, a variety bred from the American Kansas Pheasant and the Polish Pheasant.

It is considered a good bird to breed and to release, thrives in different habitats, and exhibits what we call ‘hybrid vigour’.

Another variety that readers enquire about is the melanistic mutant pheasant with blue-black iridescent plumage and very striking when you first see them.

These birds were developed from natural mutations in wild British pheasants about 100 years ago.

Being very resilient they thrive in the wild and are commonly reported.

Prof Ian D Rotherham, a researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues, is contactable at [email protected]

Follow his Walk on the Wildside blog at

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