Pheasant is the vernacular name of many species of the Phasianinae subfamily (Galliformes order). There are twenty-three species of the pheasant itself, not counting the closely related species sic as Peafowl, Tragopan and Junglefowl,… Like most birds that nest on the ground, the females have a dull plumage which camouflages them when they brood, whereas the males sport gleaming colors and, characteristic of the group, long tails. The courtship parades are often spectacular. At least 15 pheasant species are in danger or threatened around the world by hunting or by the destruction of their habitat.
Only one species is commonly encountered in Europe: the Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), which does not originate from our regions but from the Black Sea basin. It is the most widespread and common pheasant in the world. Million of birds are bred each year in order to provide game for hunters. In France, it has the unhappy privilege of being second on the list of most hunted creatures 95% of them are bred for that purpose. Indeed, our rural pheasants come from breeding farms, and without these regular contributions, the populations would quickly decline. Every self-respecting hunter must sport a pheasant feather on his hat.
The other pheasant species have some evocative names: Reeves’s, Lady Amherst’s, Royal, Golden, Silver,…
The tail of the male Reeve’s Pheasant (Syrmaticus reevesii) can be as long as two metres. Originating in China, its population is undergoing a dangerous decline, due to deforestation, to its being hunted for food, and to the collection of ornamental feathers. It has been introduced in to Europe with limited success.
The Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) was imported to England from China in 1740 and was introduced into other parts of Europe thereafter. A bird frequently found in aviaries and zoos, the male sports a highly colored plumage, with a long crest of golden-yellow feathers. The latter is used fro making collars and fringes. As with other species, the tail is highly prized.