The Golden Pheasant, (Chrysolophus pictus), also known as the ‘Chinese Pheasant’ is one of the more popular species of pheasant which is native to the mountainous forests of Western and Central China.
The Golden Pheasant was introduced to the United Kingdom around 100 years ago and there are around 101 – 118 mating pairs in the summer. This hardy, gamebird belongs to the order: Galliformes and is a smaller species of pheasant.
The Golden Pheasant along with Lady Amherst Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae), make up the group of ‘Ruffed Pheasants’ named for their ruff which is spread across their face and neck during courtship.
Use the information below to find out more about the Golden Pheasant’s characteristics, habitat, diet, behaviour and reproduction.
Golden Pheasant Characteristics
Male and female Golden Pheasants look different in appearance. Males measure 90 – 105 centimetres in length with the tail making up two thirds of the total length. Females are slightly smaller measuring 60 – 80 centimetres in length with the tail making up half of the total length. Their wingspan is around 70 centimetres and they weigh around 630 grams.
Male Golden Pheasants can be easily identified by their bright coloring. They have a golden crest tipped with red which extends from the top of their heads, down their necks. They have bright red underparts, dark colored wings and a pale brown, long, barred tail. Their rumps are also golden, upper backs are green and they have bright yellow eyes with a small black pupil. Their face, throat and chin are a rust color and their wattles and orbital skin are yellow. Beak, legs and feet are also yellow.
Female Golden Pheasants are less colourful and more duller than males. They have a mottled brown plumage, pale brown face, throat, breast and sides, pale yellow feet and are more slender in appearance.
Golden Pheasant Habitat
Golden pheasants are native to Western China, but they have travelled far and wide and have been introduced over time to other places including the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States. Wild populations can also be found across Central and South America, and much of Western Europe. They can even be found in Australia and New Zealand!
The Golden Pheasant’s preferred habitats are dense forests and they can often be seen in places with lots of trees and bushes. While this is their favourite, they can also be found in loose woodlands and sparse undergrowth.
Golden Pheasant Diet
Golden Pheasants mainly feed on the ground on grain, berries, grubs and seeds as well as other kinds of vegetation. They will also eat small insects and invertebrates though when the opportunity arises, and their diet may change seasonally. During winter, they like to stay close to humans and eat wheat leaves and seeds.
Golden Pheasant Behaviour
Golden Pheasants are very timid birds and will hide in dark, dense forests and woodlands during the day and roost in very high trees during the night. Golden Pheasants often forage on the ground despite their ability to fly, this may be because they are quite clumsy in flight. However, if they are startled, they are capable of taking off in a sudden fast upward motion with a distinctive wing sound.
Little is known about their behaviour in the wild as although the males are very colourful birds, they are difficult to spot. The best time to possibly observe a Golden Pheasant is very early in the morning when they may be seen in clearings.
Vocalisations include a ‘chack chack’ sound. Males have a distinctive metallic call during the breeding season. Also, during the males elaborate courtship display, he will spread his neck feathers over his head and beak, like a cape.
Golden Pheasant Reproduction
Female Golden Pheasants lay around 8 – 12 eggs in April. Incubation time is around 22 – 23 days. Once hatched, the new chicks grow and develop quickly. By the end of their first fortnight – 12 – 14 days they are ready to fledge.
Males acquire their bright colours during their second year of life but are sexually mature in their first year. The life span of a Golden Pheasant in the wild, is 5 – 6 years. They can live for much longer in captivity though. Without the threat of predation, an ample food supply and shelter, they can live up to 15 years or more in captivity.
Golden Pheasant Predators And Threats
Golden pheasants are a popular prey species, particularly for foxes, wildcats, and birds of prey. These animals might try to eat them or their eggs. The specific species does vary depending on their location, those that prey on them in China or South America can vary widely for instance. Some large rodents might also try to eat their eggs.
There is also the human threat too, as like with most pheasant and game birds, they are hunted for meat and for sport. They are quite good at keeping out of sight though, mostly safe and sound in their dense forest homes.
Golden Pheasant Conservation Status
Golden Pheasants are classed as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN, with the last assessment being in 2018. This means they are not in danger of becoming extinct anytime soon, even though their populations are currently in decline. To help them to stabilize population, we need to do our best to take care of their habitats.
5 Fun Golden Pheasant Facts For Kids
- Male golden pheasants like to show off and perform a colourful dance to impress the females during courtship.
- They are also known as the Rainbow pheasant because of their vibrant, eye-catching colours.
- In China, golden pheasants are seen as a sign of good luck and prosperity. It is said to be an ancient ancestor of the Phoenix and to represent ‘auspiciousness’.
- They live much longer in captivity than in the wild, potentially up to 20 years!
- Golden pheasants prefer running to flying and spend the majority of their time on the ground.