Golden Pheasant (57)
|The Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) is a gamebird of the order Galliformes (gallinaceous birds) and the family Phasianidae. They are native to western China but have been widely introduced elsewhere, and have established a self-supporting feral population in England.|
The adult male is 90-105 cm in length, its tail accounting for two-thirds of the total length. It is unmistakable with its golden crest and rump and bright red body. The deep orange "cape" can be spread in display, appearing as an alternating black and orange fan that covers all of the face except its bright yellow eye, with a pinpoint black pupil.
The female (hen) is much less showy, with a duller mottled brown plumage all over, similar to that of the female Common Pheasant. She is darker and more slender than the hen of that species, with a proportionately longer tail (half her 60-80 cm length).
Despite the male's showy appearance, these birds are very difficult to see in their natural habitat, which is dense, dark young conifer forests with sparse undergrowth. Consequently, little is known of their behaviour in the wild.
They feed on the ground on grain, leaves and invertebrates, but roost in trees at night. Whilst they can fly, they prefer to run: but if startled they can suddenly burst upwards at great speed, with a distinctive wing sound.
The male has a metallic call in the breeding season.
Golden Pheasant is often seen in captivity, but often as impure specimens that have, at one point in the lineage, been crossed with the similar Lady Amherst's Pheasant. The picture at right shows subtle signs of a hybrid in the dark face, and in the yellow extending into what should be a pure dark red flank (where in the Amherst, the white flank would meet the green breast feathers in this area).