Golden Pheasant

Chrysolophus pictus

A native of China, introduced in small numbers to the west, the timid male golden pheasant is much admired by aviculturists due to its beautiful, bold coloured plumage.

Length:

60cm to 115cm

Wingspan:

65cm to 75cm

Weight:

550g to 710g

Golden Pheasant

What does a Golden Pheasant look like?

Smaller than the Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) the adult male golden pheasant has predominantly red underparts with a long golden crest tipped red and gold rump. The face is a light buff and the bill, pale yellow. The eyes are a very pale yellow to white. Extending from beneath the back of the crest across the mantle is an orange and indigo barred cape otherwise known as a ruff. The upper back area is a bottle green and the tail, which accounts for almost two thirds of the total length of the bird, is a golden brown with dark mottling. The wings are short and dark brown. The legs of both sexes are a pale yellow. The female adult is considerably smaller and whilst its tail is long for the size of the bird it is approximately half the length of the tail of the male. As with many gamebirds the female is rather drab and uninteresting compared with the male. Overall, she is predominantly a mid to golden brown which is closely and heavily barred in black. Unlike the male the female lacks any form of crest or cape. The underparts are less heavily barred and are more of a light buff colour particularly around the area of the lower belly. Juvenile birds are similar to female adults but with less barring. Both adult females and juveniles have brown eyes in contrast to the male’s pale irides.

Golden Pheasant standing on the ground

Golden Pheasant standing on the ground

What does a Golden Pheasant sound like?

Apart from a distinctive hissing sound; in typical pheasant fashion the golden pheasant issues a loud, high pitched shrieking call similar to ‘eh-sheek’.

Golden Pheasant Song

Zeidler Roland, XC399516. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/399516.

Female Golden Pheasant

Female Golden Pheasant

What does a Golden Pheasant eat?

The golden pheasant is a ground forager, mainly dining on a diet of insects and spiders, foliage including leaves, plant shoots, buds and seeds and in its native China, bamboo shoots and leaves.

Close up portrait of a Golden Pheasant

Close up portrait of a Golden Pheasant

Distribution

Indigenous to the mountain and forest regions of south and west China this monotypic species has had mixed fortunes when introduced by man to other areas of the world. The most successful introduction thus far has been to England, where in the late nineteenth century they were imported and nowadays are located mainly within the pine forests of Suffolk and Norfolk in the east of England. It is estimated that the UK population is in the region of up to one hundred breeding pairs. Other areas of the world where they can be seen, albeit in much smaller numbers, are Australasia, Continental Europe and North and South America. Small feral populations favour coniferous forests and they are frequently found in aviaries and zoos.

Golden Pheasant

Golden Pheasant

Signs and Spotting tips

In the wild these hardy birds are easiest to spot during their feeding in the early morning. They are shy and tend to hide within dense forest areas. Their long tails and relatively short wings mean that they are not renowned for their flying capabilities and in fact, prefer to run away from trouble as opposed to taking to the wing. The adult male is unmistakable in his colourful plumage. Golden pheasants spend most of the day on the ground whilst at night they tend to roost high up in trees. Probably the best way to view these beautiful birds is visit them in a zoo or aviary where it is alleged, they adapt to captivity very well.

Golden Pheasant

Breeding

Golden pheasants nest on the ground in small scrapes lined with foliage surrounded by the natural camouflage of ground vegetation. The breeding season is believed to take place from early April to June when one brood, consisting of between 5 -12 beige coloured eggs, is laid annually. The female alone incubates the eggs which hatch at around twenty three days. Fledging occurs some two weeks later.

Golden pheasant mating display

Golden Pheasant mating display

Juvenile golden pheasant

Juvenile Golden Pheasant

How long do Golden Pheasants live for?

Within its native China there is a very high predation rate amongst the young and whilst life expectancy in the wild is between five to six years, captive birds may live a lot longer.

Can Golden Pheasants fly?

Like all pheasants, the golden pheasant isn't able to fly for prolonged periods. Instead, they are capable of short and rapid bursts of flight. They spend most of their time on the ground.

Are Golden Pheasants endangered?

No, globally they are listed with a conservation status of Least Concern, which means there is a stable population.

How many eggs does a Golden Pheasant lay?

Golden Pheasants usually lay between 5 and 12 eggs.

Articles featuring the Golden Pheasant

Other birds in the Pheasants and partridges family