The ring-necked pheasant, Phasianus colchicus, prefers diversified agricultural and grain-producing regions. In Utah the best populations are found in irrigated areas.
Males reach a length of 34 inches or more; the tail may exceed 20 inches when fully developed. They weigh from 2.5 to 3 pounds when fully mature. Hens are about 24 inches long, half of which is tail, and weigh about two pounds. Plumage of the male is gaudy and brilliant. Prominent characteristics are a greenish-blue head, a white ring around the neck, a pale bluish rump patch, and a long, pointed tail barred with black. Coloration of the female is more drab with a mottled blend of browns with buff and dusky markings.
The pheasant cock may mate with several females. The nest is a slight depression lined with leaves or grasses built in dense vegetation for concealment. During the first part of the nesting season, the hen may lay some eggs which she does not incubate, leading to a common belief that the eggs were not fertile because of insufficient cocks. Usually, however, she will lay a clutch of 10 to 11 eggs and begin the 24-day incubation. If the nest is destroyed prior to hatching of eggs, the hen will probably renest. Up to three nests may be established before bringing off a brood, but they hatch and rear only one brood each year.
Waste grains, weed seeds, and green vegetation are the principal food items. Numerous insects are taken during the spring and summer.
The ring-necked pheasant is a native of eastern Asia. It was first introduced in Utah about 1890. Since then, its distribution has been increased by transplanting, release of game-farm birds, and natural dispersion. All suitable habitat is now occupied. Although limited to agricultural areas, primarily irrigated croplands, this species is the most popular upland game bird in Utah. Urban and industrial development during the past quarter century has progressively destroyed a considerable amount of pheasant habitat, and placed greater hunter demand and use on remaining areas. Some agricultural practices also limit the productivity of pheasant populations and habitat.