Ring-necked Pheasant

From Ohio History Central


Scientific Name: Phasianus colchicus
Habitat: Grasslands; dense field borders; corn fields; and brushy woodlots.
Adult Weight: 1.8-3.5 lbs. male; 1.6 - 2.2 lbs. female
Adult Body Length: 33 - 36 in. male; 20 -22 in. female
Nesting Period: May - September, peak May - July
Broods Per Year: 1
Clutch Size: 6 - 18 eggs
Life Expectancy: 1 year
Foods: Seeds of corn, wheat, oats, foxtail, ragweed, grape, poson ivy, bittersweet, sumac, and dogwood; berries; insects


The male pheasant is colorful with a dark, somewhat irridescent head; red patches around the eyes, white neck ring; and brown, speckled body feathers. The female has just the brown, speckled feathers, which is perfect camouflage when nesting on the ground. When startled, they take off from the ground with wing beats reaching three times per second.


19th Century

In 1882, thirty ring-necked pheasants were shipped from Shanghai, China to Portland, Oregon. By 1892, they had multiplied enough that Oregon started a hunting season the same year. On opening day, 50,000 pheasants were killed. Other states began to quickly import pheasants themselves.

The first ring-necked pheasants were introduced in Ohio in 1896, but were not originally successful.

20th Century

By 1914 ring-necks were being distributed throughout Ohio. The state began stocking pheasants in 1919. Each year, between 1923 and 1935, state agencies released 10- 25,000 birds throughout the state. Weedy farm fence rows and grassy areas were perfect for the game bird and pheasant populations peaked with 5 million birds in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

As farming practices changed and machinery improved, these grassy areas became smaller and smaller, destroying the pheasant's habitat. Chemical control on weeds and insects was also a factor. By 1978, 96% of the population was gone from Ohio.

In 1985, the Federal Conservation Reserve Program began to pay farmers not to plant crops. This program, and others in 1990 and 1996, replaced croplands with over 300,000 acres of cover across Ohio. The pheasant populations began to rise until 1993 when numbers dropped because of drastic weather changes. 1998 saw an increase in populations.

Although their numbers are low, other management programs are in place, including the annual release of pheasants into rural areas, insuring that the species will remain in Ohio's countryside.

See Also


  1. Ohio Biological Survey, Bulletin no. 32; 1935.
  2. Turbak, Gary. "A Pleasant Bird is the Pheasant, " National Wildlife, pp.14-21. National Wildlife Federation, Washington, D.C.; Oct.-Nov. 1992.