Pheasant (Common Pheasant or Ring-necked Pheasant) Phasianus colchicus

A super-abundant species whose population is maintained at an artificially high level thanks to vast numbers of birds being reared and released by gamekeepers. There are a number of different races of this non-native species but due to a long history of interbreeding between them it is not normally possible to assign individuals to one or other race. Most show a conspicuous white neck ring but a large number lack this or show only a partial ring. So-called melanistic birds resembling Japanese Green Pheasants are being released in increasing numbers - scroll down for more information and photos of these. Another unnatural but quite attractive variant that seems to be increasing is a very pale-backed type, a few examples of which appear below. All white Pheasants are also seen occasionally.

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male Pheasant, Heacham (Norfolk, UK), 21st April 2004

 

male Pheasant, Flitcham (Norfolk, UK), 7th April 2006

 

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female Pheasant, north of Stanhoe (Norfolk, UK), 14th December 2005

 

female Pheasant, East Rudham (Norfolk, UK), 17th June 2004

 

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male Pheasants, Brew (Cornwall, UK), 6th October 2005

 

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male Pheasants, Dunton (Norfolk, UK), 1st October 2004

 

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Pheasants, Docking (Norfolk, UK), 30th October 2007

 

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male Pheasant, Burnham Overy (Norfolk, UK), 8th March 2014

 

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male Pheasant, Cley (Norfolk, UK), 28th March 2009

 

immature male Pheasant, Houghton (Norfolk, UK), 3rd September 2010

 

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male Pheasant, Sandringham (Norfolk, UK), 14th March 2008

 

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Pheasants, Sculthorpe Moor (Norfolk, UK), 24th March 2008

 

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Pheasant chick, Houghton (Norfolk, UK), 4th June 2010

 

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male Pheasants, Thornham (Norfolk, UK), 8th May 2011

 

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Pheasants, Stiffkey (Norfolk, UK), 9th November 2013

 

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Pheasant, Rawhall Wood (Norfolk, UK), 26th January 2014

 

Tenebrosus Pheasants

Recent years have seen a sharp increase in very dark Pheasants being released into the Norfolk countryside and in one or two areas they may even outnumber ordinary Pheasants. I presume that it is these birds that have led to a simultaneous spate of reports of Japanese Green Pheasants Phasianus versicolor; however despite their superficial similarity, this identification is not correct. Although there is possibly some Japanese Green Pheasant influence in their ancestry (but I have found no evidence of this and suspect not), these intriguing birds are best referred to as a variation, or mutation, of (Common) Pheasant. The variation is known as 'tenebrosus'.

Often described as melanistic, these Pheasants can appear black at a distance or in poor light, but in the right conditions they show a strong blue, purple or more often green colour. I understand that it's not technically correct to describe this irridescent plumage as melanism.

Odd birds may appear anywhere but some places seem to hold good numbers for a while, presumably where these have been favoured by gamekeepers.

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male Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), south of Wells (Norfolk, UK), 13th April 2011

 

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male Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), south of Wells (Norfolk, UK), 13th April 2011 (a different bird from the one above)

 

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male and female Pheasants (var. tenebrosus), south of Wells (Norfolk, UK), 13th April 2011 (the male is another different bird from the ones above)

 

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female Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), North Creake (Norfolk, UK), 8th April 2011

 

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male Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Ringstead (Norfolk, UK), 25th March 2013

 

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male Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Coxford (Norfolk, UK), 26th March 2013

 

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male Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Great Hockham (Norfolk, UK), 12th March 2006

 

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male Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Wretham (Norfolk, UK), 20th March 2005

 

male Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Ingoldisthorpe (Norfolk, UK), 27th January 2005

 

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female Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Great Hockham (Norfolk, UK), 20th March 2005

 

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female Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Wolferton (Norfolk, UK), 21st March 2011

 

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Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 18th October 2008

Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Thornham Corner (Norfolk, UK), 27th November 2004

For a while I had assumed that the white on the necks of these two birds was trace of a male's collar coming through and that these were therefore immature males. However this does not seem right. Firstly first-autumn male Pheasants by this time are normally much more male-like in overall appearance, secondly the white on the right hand bird appears too extensive and perhaps too high and thirdly 'tenebrosus' males don't have white collars. Presumably therefore these are females and the white is leucism?

 

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male Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Great Hockham (Norfolk, UK), 14th February 2009

 

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presumed female Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), between Amner & West Newton (Norfolk, UK), 20th February 2009 - I've since seen other presmed tenebrosus females with similar pale fringes on otherwise dark plumage, but the blue skin around this bird's eye is so far unexplained - it is not a normal feature of Common Pheasant in any mutation that I am aware of. Lady Amherts's Pheasants show blue skin round the eye but this clearly isn't a Lady Amherst's Pheasant and I don't really think it's likely to be a hybrid either. My guess is that this is an inherited feature of all Pheasants that is normally expressed in Lady A's and normally dormant in Common Pheasant, but is expressed in this individual as a result of mutation - but that's pretty much wild speculation so please let me know if you have any more informed thoughts on this one!

 

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male Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Billingford (Norfolk, UK), 12th March 2011

 

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presumed intersex Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), south of Wells (Norfolk, UK), 12th April 2011

 

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female Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Amner (Norfolk, UK), 6th September 2011

 

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male Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), south of Wells (Norfolk, UK), 15th January 2014

 

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female Pheasant (? var. tenebrosus), Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 20th April 2011

Presumably Tenebrosus Pheasants bred with normal Pheasants will produce birds showing mixed characteristics and presumably the first bird below is one such bird.

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male Pheasant, south of Wells (Norfolk, UK), 13th April 2011

 

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male Pheasant, Sandringham (Norfolk, UK), 24th January 2005

 

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male Pheasant, Sandringham (Norfolk, UK), 30th January 2013

 

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Pheasant chick, Houghton (Norfolk, UK), 21st June 2010 - some chicks in this brood were dark while others were normal; the accompanying female was normal-coloured, so my guess is that the father was a Tenebrosus bird

 

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male Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), North Creake (Norfolk, UK), 26th March 2012

 

male Pheasant, Tatterford (Norfolk, UK), 26th March 2012

 

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male Pheasant, Holkham (Norfolk, UK), 23rd February 2004

 

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male Pheasants, Strumpshaw Fen (Norfolk, UK), 1st January 2010

 

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male Pheasant, Porthgwarra (Cornwall, UK), 17th October 2010

 

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male and female Pheasants, East Rudham (Norfolk, UK), 17th April 2003

 

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male Pheasant, Sculthorpe Moor (Norfolk, UK), 7th March 2009

 

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male Pheasant, Minsmere (Suffolk, UK), 10th September 2011

 

female Pheasant, Shernbone (Norfolk, UK), 13th September 2011

 

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male Pheasant, Wolferton (Norfolk, UK), 19th November 2010

 

female Pheasant, north of Stanhoe (Norfolk, UK), 3rd November 2010

 

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female Pheasant, Rawhall Gravel Pits (Norfolk, UK), 29th March 2013

 

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female Pheasant, Rawhall Gravel Pits (Norfolk, UK), 29th March 2013

 

female Pheasant, Bittering (Norfolk, UK), 30th March 2013

 

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male Pheasant, Anmer (Norfolk, UK), 2nd March 2013

 

male Pheasant, Thornham (Norfolk, UK), 24th October 2012

 

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male Pheasant, Burnham Market (Norfolk, UK), 21st January 2004

 

male Pheasant, Amner (Norfolk, UK), 21st March 2006

 

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female Pheasants, Bintree (Norfolk, UK), 12th March 2011

 

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male Pheasant, near Amner (Norfolk, UK), 2nd March 2012

 

male Pheasant, Bintree (Norfolk, UK), 12th March 2011

 

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male Pheasant, Bawdeswell (Norfolk, UK), 23rd February 2008

 

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female Pheasant, Flitcham (Norfolk, UK), 7th April 2006

 

male Pheasant, Coxford (Norfolk, UK), 23rd March 2004

 

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female Pheasants, Flitcham (Norfolk, UK), 7th November 2006. The bird in the right hand photo is the same bird as the darker one in the left hand photo.

 

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male Pheasant, Flitcham (Norfolk, UK), 27th February 2008

 

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male Pheasant, Tatterford (Norfolk, UK), 20th April 2004

 

female Pheasant, Thornham (Norfolk, UK), 14th October 2003

 

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male Pheasant, Ingoldisthorpe (Norfolk, UK), 22nd February 2005

 

male Pheasant, Tatterford (Norfolk, UK), 25th May 2004

 

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immature male Pheasant, Tatterford (Norfolk, UK), 15th August 2005

 

Pheasant chick, Tatterford (Norfolk, UK), 29th May 2005

 

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male Pheasant, Wolferton (Norfolk, UK), 30th January 2007

 

male Pheasant, Flitcham (Norfolk, UK), 7th April 2006

 

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female Pheasant, Sculthorpe Moor (Norfolk, UK), 24th March 2008

 

male Pheasant, W of Burnham Market (Norfolk, UK), 18th March 2011 - pale-backed variant

 

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male Pheasants, Choseley (Norfolk, UK), 27th November 2008

 

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male Pheasant, near Hilborough (Norfolk, UK), 8th February 2009 - pale-backed variant

 

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leucistic male Pheasant, Great Cressingham (Norfolk, UK), 5th March 2011 - these pale-backed birds seem to be increasingly common in this area

 

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leucistic male Pheasant, Hilborough (Norfolk, UK), 23rd February 2014

 

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leucistic female Pheasant, Great Cressingham (Norfolk, UK), 22nd February 2009 - I've noticed pale females seem to appear more commonly in the same places that the pale-backed variant males occur - are they the same mutant?

 

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leucistic male Pheasant, Hockwold (Norfolk, UK), 2nd May 2009

 

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leucistic female Pheasant, Saham (Norfolk, UK), 17th March 2012

 

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male Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Saham (Norfolk, UK), 17th March 2012

 

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male Pheasants, The Arms (Norfolk, UK), 17th March 2012

 

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female Pheasants, Great Cressingham (Norfolk, UK), 17th March 2012 - left photo showing both a leucistic bird and a var. tenebrosus bird

 

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male Pheasants (pale-backed variants), Great Cressingham (Norfolk, UK), 17th March 2012

 

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male Pheasant, Great Cressingham (Norfolk, UK), 17th March 2012

 

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female Pheasant, Ringstead (Norfolk, UK), 21st April 2008

 

male Pheasant, Docking (Norfolk, UK), 14th November 2008

 

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female Pheasant, Titchwell (Norfolk, UK), 20th March 2009

 

female Pheasant, Thornham (Norfolk, UK), 10th September 2010

 

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female Pheasant, Houghton (Norfolk, UK), 3rd November 2008

 

leucistic female Pheasant, Strumpshaw Fen (Norfolk, UK), 7th February 2009

 

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male Pheasant, Sedgeford, 12th November 2009

 

male Pheasant, Sculthorpe Moor, 7th March 2009

 

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male Pheasant, Sandringham (Norfolk, UK), 19th January 2009

 

male Pheasant, Great Cressingham (Norfolk, UK), 23rd February 2013

 

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male Pheasant, Rawhall (Norfolk, UK), 6th April 2013

 

male Pheasant, Bittering (Norfolk, UK), 5th April 2013

 

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male Pheasant, Fring (Norfolk, UK), 22nd November 2011

 

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male Pheasant, Holkham (Norfolk, UK), 4th February 2012

 

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male Pheasant, Sculthorpe Moor (Norfolk, UK), 7th December 2013

 

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male Pheasant, Stiffkey (Norfolk, UK), 1st October 2013

 

male Pheasant, Great Cressingham (Norfolk, UK), 17th March 2012

 

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Pheasant, Rawhall GPs (Norfolk, UK), 7th April 2013 - another intersex var. 'tenebrosus'?

 

male and female Pheasants, Docking (Norfolk, UK), 30th October 2007

 

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male Pheasant, West Rudham Common (Norfolk, UK), 7th March 2014

 

male Pheasant, Flitcham (Norfolk, UK), 8th January 2008

 

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male Pheasant, Creaking Gate Lake (Norfolk, UK), 1st June 2014

 

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male Pheasant, south of Brancaster (Norfolk, UK), 9th November 2005