Famous for its beautiful, colorful plumage, the golden pheasant is one of the most well-known game birds on the planet.
The stunning golden pheasant was the first species of pheasant brought to North America. But did you know that they are not your typical birds?
They are, in fact, closer to chickens. And like chickens, golden pheasants are more terrestrial than aerial. It means they are happier on the ground.
Want to know more about these glorious birds? Here are ten other amazing facts about these fascinatingly fantastic fowls.
1. They are ‘game fowl’ and are in the same group as chickens, turkey and quail.
Golden pheasants are members of the order Galliformes, which includes all types of chicken and similar birds, such as grouse, partridge, peafowl, quail, and turkey. These creatures are also collectively known as game fowl, land fowl, or gallinaceous birds.
The scientific name of golden pheasants is Chrysolophus pictus, from Greek and Latin. Chrysolophus derives from the ancient Greek word khrusolophos, meaning ‘with golden crest.’ Pictus, on the other hand, is Latin for ‘painted.’ Hence Chrysolophus pictus essentially translates to painted bird with a golden crest. Golden pheasants are sometimes referred to as Chinese pheasants because of their origin and rainbow pheasants because of their brilliant plumage.
2. Golden pheasants are some of the most stunning looking birds in the world
Golden pheasants are lovely-looking creatures. Both males and females have a long tail which makes up a significant portion of their total body length. But that is pretty much where the similarities end. Like most bird species, the males are flashier and more colorful than the females.
Males are known for their distinct golden-yellow crest, tinged by red at the tip. Their chin, face, throat, and sides of the neck are ruddy tan, while the wattles, orbital skin (the area around the eyes), beak, feet, and legs are yellow. The wings are orange, the chest is scarlet, the tertials (upper arms) are blue, the upper back is green, and the lower back and rump are golden yellow. The males also have a black central tail spotted with cinnamon, while their flanks and underpants are a light chestnut. Too much exposure to sunlight for long periods can cause a golden pheasant to lose its bright colors.
In contrast, the females have a duller mottled brown plumage. The face, throat, breast, abdomen, and sides are a mixture of buff (yellow-ochre and white) and blackish-brown, while the lower legs and feet are dull yellow. The female golden pheasant’s plain colors allow them to blend into their surroundings and escape their prey.
3. The golden pheasants tail is nearly as long as its entire body
The male golden pheasants can be between 60 to 115 centimeters long. Their tails are about two-thirds of the entire body length. The females are smaller and lighter than the males, growing up to 24 to 31 inches or 60 to 80 centimeters. Their tails are also shorter, making up only one-half of their body length.
On average, both males and females weigh between 1.20 to 2.42 lbs. Their wingspan is around 70 centimeters. Golden pheasants belong to the medium-sized category of birds.
4. They are native to the dense and shady woodlands of Asia, especially China
Golden pheasants originally live in dense and shady forests and woodlands in the mountainous regions of Asia, particularly China. But you can find them in different parts of the world, including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay. Golden pheasants prefer to live in conifer forests, but they are known to adapt easily and quickly to their environment.
5. Golden pheasants are solitary animals
Bird experts observed that golden pheasants are solitary birds who shy away from others. In captivity, they prefer to live alone in a cage. Despite their vibrant colors, they are not easily visible in the wild as they choose to live in the shadows. The male of the species makes crowing sounds to attract females during mating season. These noises include whistles, clicks, squeaks, and snake-like hisses in the mating ritual. Apart from these, they are basically quiet birds.
6. They have a varied diet
Golden pheasants are omnivores. Berries, grains, grubs, wheat leaves, seeds and insects are among their staples. In cold winters, when food is scarce, they usually flock to areas where people live in search of something to eat. Their diet then may consist of leftovers from humans.
7. They have limited flying capabilities
Do not expect to see a flock of golden pheasants flying over trees. Their long tails and short wings make them unsuitable for lengthy flights. These birds are chiefly ground-dwelling and forage the forest floor for food during the day. At night, they roost on tree branches to sleep. Getting up on top of these tall trees is their primary purpose for flying. Though their ability to fly is limited, golden pheasants are capable of short, fast bursts of flight when startled or threatened.
8. They can live long lives
A golden pheasant’s lifespan depends on where it lives. Around two-thirds of those in the wild die within their first six to ten weeks. Only two to three percent of the survivors make it to three years. However, some wild golden pheasants do reach five to six years.
The majority of golden pheasants in captivity live longer. With proper care and the right environment, many can last up to 15 years. A rare few even reach the ripe old age of 20 years.
9. Golden pheasants are non-aggressive birds
Golden pheasants are generally non-aggressive, especially to non-competing species. But they can also be shy and indifferent at times. With patience and proper methods, golden pheasants are relatively easy to tame.
10. They are a popular pet choice
Enthusiasts have kept these birds in captivity for hundreds of years. But it doesn’t mean they are the most convenient household pets. They are notorious for flying off, so you need to place netting over their pen. Because they are natural foragers, you will need ample room for them to roam around, preferably 20 square feet of space for each bird.
Their beautiful plumage, however, will undoubtedly impress your friends. For the Chinese, the golden pheasant symbolizes good luck and prosperity. Additionally, there’s a superstition that you get three wishes if you catch the bird.