Pheasants are species of birds as colorful and beautiful as peacocks. They are polygon and highly sexually dimorphic species, where the males are large and elaborately ornamented with brightly colored plumage, ear tufts, whiskers, dewclaws, and long tails, in comparison with the females that are not ornamented with a cryptic and opaque plumage. Officially it is believed that there are not many breeds of pheasants although colloquially many species are known.
All types of pheasants have a polygonal mating system that relies on males defending mating territories during the breeding season in early spring to control access to females with higher quality resources and defense against mating and predation. Females are free to move between different male territories, allowing them to benefit directly or indirectly to choose high-quality mates and areas with better resources for their offspring.
Here are 10 of the most beautiful pheasant breeds in the world
1. Common Pheasant
The common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) is a bird in the pheasant family (Phasianidae). The name of the genus comes from the Latin phasianus, which means “pheasant”. The species name colchicus in Latin means “from Colchis” (present-day Georgia), a country on the Black Sea where pheasants were known to Europeans.
Common pheasants, in particular, are commonly raised and introduced to many parts of the world; although distinct breeds have not yet been developed, they can be considered semi-domestic. The species apparently have somewhat different ecological requirements and at least in its typical habitat, the green pheasant far outperforms the common pheasant. Therefore, the introduction of the latter in Japan has largely failed.
2. Elliot’s Pheasant
Elliot’s pheasant (Syrmaticus ellioti) is also known as the Chinese lattice-backed pheasant or simply lattice-backed pheasant. Its name is reminiscent of the American ornithologist Daniel Giraud Elliot (1835-1915), author of A Monograph of the Phasianidae (1872) and one of the founders of the American Ornithologists Union. Elliot’s pheasant is endemic to southeast China, where it lives in dense evergreen and mountainous forests of southeast China, at altitudes of up to 6,200 feet (1,900 meters).
Elliot’s pheasant is considered an endangered species, as their numbers are rapidly declining due to habitat loss, their limited range, and hunting for food. This type of pheasant is evaluated as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and is included in Appendix I of CITES.
3. Brown-eared Pheasant
The brown-eared pheasant (Crossoptilon mantchuricum), is endemic to the mountain forests of China. Due to the isolated population, deforestation, and illegal hunting, the brown-eared pheasant is evaluated as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is included in Appendix I of CITES. This class of pheasant is large up to 39 100 centimeters long. Males and females are almost identical. The only difference is the size, as the female is generally smaller. But it is the spurs that are normally used to sex the birds. The male’s spurs are rounder at the base, while in the hens they are more oval in shape.
Its very ornamental bright brown plumage. This pheasant has a black crown and long plumes of creamy white ears. The skin and bare face legs are crimson red, but the bird is most notable for its prominent tufts of white cheeks that extend from the base of the beak, somewhat resembling a raised mustache. The rump is light cream in color and the tail feathers are edged with black. These feathers are very wide and are generally held high to form a beautiful arch of fluffy leaves.
4. Cheer or Wallich’s Pheasant
The cheer pheasant (Catreus wallichi), also known as Wallich’s pheasant, is named after botanist Nathaniel Wallich. Its main name (Cheer) is derived from the Chir pine found in its breeding grounds and serves as a preferred place to sleep at night. This rare pheasant is found in the highlands and scrublands of the western Himalayas, from northern Pakistan, through Kashmir, to Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, India, and east to central Nepal, at elevations of 1,500 to 2,700 meters. Prefers steep slopes with scrub and secondary growth. Chir pheasants are not as brightly colored as most other pheasants and, unlike most other pheasant species, both sexes are similar in plumage.
It is a gray, brown, bar-tailed pheasant with a long, pronounced crest and red facial skin. Males measure an average of 118 centimeters and females 70 centimeters long.
Their distribution is uneven due to their specialized habitat needs and their numbers are declining. In India, most of the known populations are now confined to Himachal Pradesh. This pheasant is an endangered species and as such is listed in CITES Appendix I and the IUCN Red Data Book. Habitat loss, illegal hunting for its beautiful feathers and meat, and trade have taken their toll on this rare species of pheasant.
5. Copper Pheasant
The copper pheasant (Syrmaticus soemmerringii), is endemic to the hill and mountain forests of the Japanese islands of Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. This pheasant is evaluated as Near Threatened due to continued habitat loss and overhunting in some areas. The scientific name of this specimen evokes and recalls the German scientist Samuel Thomas von Sömmering.
Copper pheasants are large birds, averaging up to 136 centimeters in length. The male has a rich coppery chestnut plumage, also has a yellowish bill, a brown iris, and a red facial skin, only the male has a short spur on the gray legs. The female is a brown-colored bird with grayish-brown upper parts and dark brown stripes underneath.
6. Siamese Fireback Pheasant
The Siamese Fireback Pheasant (Lophura diardi) is a type of pheasant endemic to Southeast Asia and can be found in the lowland forests of Cambodia, Laos, eastern Thailand, and northern Vietnam. Their preferred habitat includes areas of very dense, secondary growth, evergreen, and bamboo forest, and scrub in the plains and foothills up to 800 meters. Males are usually found in the company of two or three females or in small groups that are presumed to be familiar.
Due to continued habitat loss and hunting in some areas, the Siamese pheasant is assessed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This pheasant class is the national bird of Thailand. As the only bird with the name of the nation, it is normal that the Siamese pheasant has become among the ten most sought-after species in Thailand. The scientific name commemorates the French naturalist Pierre-Médard Diard.
7. Lady Amherst’s Pheasant
The Lady Amherst pheasant or silver pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) is native to southwestern China and Tibet but has also established a self-sustaining, but now declining in a wild population in England. This species is closely related to the Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus). They normally perch in trees at night. Although they can fly, they prefer to run and the male has a rough call in the breeding season.
They feed in the soil on cereals, leaves, and invertebrates (as animals without internal skeletons, such as insects, larvae, worms, millipedes, snails, spiders). The adult male is an average of 110 centimeters long and its tail is only 80 centimeters long. It is unmistakable with its black and silver head, long gray tail and rump, and red, blue, white, and yellow body. The female is much less conspicuous, with duller speckled brown plumage throughout, similar to that of the female common pheasant, but with a finer cut. She is very similar to the female Golden Pheasant but has a darker head.
8. Salvadori’s Pheasant
The Salvadori pheasant (Lophura inornata) is native to Indonesia. It is found in the humid forests of Sumatra, which is why it is also known as the “Sumatran Pheasant”. The species name “inornata” means “without ornament.”
This species is classified as vulnerable. In Kerinci Seblat National Park, the number of specimens is decreasing due to a large number of traps and hunting for food by the local population. This bird is named after the Italian ornithologist Tommaso Salvadori.
9. Silver Pheasant
The silver pheasant (Lophura nycthemera), inhabits the mountainous forests of mainland Southeast Asia and China. There are fifteen subspecies of the Silver Pheasant, distributed from eastern Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, China to the island of Hainan. A widespread and common bird in most of its ranges, the silver pheasant is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
This is a beautiful breed of large pheasant, up to 125 centimeters, white in color, with red skin on a bare face, with a black underside, and red legs. The male is adorned with a long, patterned white tail and a black crest on the crown. It takes at least two years to reach full male plumage. The female is olive-brown with a black-tipped crest.
10. Golden Pheasant
The golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) is also known as the Chinese pheasant, it is a game bird of the order of the Galliformes (gallinaceous birds) and the pheasant family. It is native to the forests of the mountainous areas of western China, but wild populations have established in the United Kingdom, Canada, United States, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. In England, they can be found in East Anglia, in the dense forest landscape of Breckland, as well as in Tresco, in the Isles of Scilly.
The adult male is 90 to 105 centimeters long, and its tail accounts for two-thirds of the total length. It is unmistakable for its golden crest and bright red body. The deep orange “cape” can spread out, appearing as an alternating fan of black and orange that covers the entire face except for its bright yellow eye with a pointed black pupil. Males have a golden-yellow crest with a hint of red at the tip. The face, throat, chin, and sides of the neck are tanned. The beards and orbital skin are yellow, and the collar or cape is light orange.