In the UK, more pheasants are reared and shot than any other species of game bird. The populations of pheasants reared have grown steadily throughout the 20th Century for a number of reasons including the decline in partridge numbers and the increase in demand from shooters.
Cock and hen pheasants are clearly distinguishable due to size, colour and features such as wattles. Cock pheasants are generally larger than hens and have longer tail feathers. The male is also brightly coloured whereas the female is more mottled brown plumage. Wattles are the red fleshy caruncles hanging from the face of the cock pheasant.
Pheasants are omnivores and eat seeds, berries, insects, fruit and green shoots. They are relatively large birds weighing up to 1.4kg. Pheasants can’t fly for long but can reach speeds of up to 60mph if being chased. A single short flight of about half a kilometre will require a resting period of something like an hour before another flight can be made.
Pheasants rarely live beyond 1 year due to predation by humans, foxes, raptors, and feral cats. Vehicular traffic also impacts on populations.
Due to the demand for birds to be better suited to the topography for where they live a number of different sub-species of pheasant have been introduced into the UK or bred by game farms. Some species, such as the Chinese Ring Neck fly better than others. Others, such as the Blackneck, are less likely to wander making them more suited to small shoots with limited numbers. Other breeds include Manchurian, Melanistic, and Reeves to name just a few.
The shooting season for pheasants in the UK differs slightly between the countries. England, Wales and Scotland share the same season of October 1st through to February 1st. Northern Ireland is one day shorter with an open season lasting from October 1st until January 31st.