Ring-necked Pheasant

Ring-necked Pheasant

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32" x 46" unframed 

40" x 52" framed


watercolor, gouache, pencil, ink, and pastel on paper

I was so moved by a recent photo of a male pheasant that had been shot on a beautiful, sunny day in an open field of green grasses, that I immediately started sketching it alive in that very environment. The piece took shape with moths and butterflies fluttering around its head. My aim was to show the tenderness of the bird as it looked at the beauty around it, its soul so deeply connected to all that it loved. 

Ring-necked Pheasants are native to China, India, and East Asia, though they were introduced to North America in the 1880s, quickly becoming one of our most popular upland game birds. It is thought to be perhaps the most widespread and ancient one in the world with the Common Pheasant being one of the world’s most hunted birds. Males stand out with their blue-green heads, red faces, copper and gold plumage, and a crisp white collar around their necks. The females are much less showy; their mottled brown plumage tends to blend in with their field habitat. Juvenile birds have the appearance of the female with a shorter tail. They are most comfortable on the ground where they scratch with their feet or dig with their bill to uncover food. They typically feed on berries, seeds, grains, fresh green shoots, roots, buds, insects, spiders, and occasionally but rarely, lizards, snakes, and frogs. If alarmed, Common Pheasant prefers to run rather than fly from danger. It may fly swiftly, but is not able to sustain the flight over long distances. Take-off is very noisy due to their short, rounded wings and long, pointed tails. They roost in trees at night.  

Common Pheasant is by name the most common pheasant in the world. Millions of birds are reared each year in Europe and North America for release in sport hunting. It may be very common in many parts where it has been introduced; however, a total of 27 Pheasant species appear on the most recent CITES list, with 17 of these classified as CITES I (Appendix I species are either rare or endangered). In the past 150 years, several pheasant species and subspecies have virtually disappeared with few birds left in the wild and limited breeding stock in captivity. This makes pheasants one of the most endangered groups of birds in the world. The World Pheasant Association (WPA)’s mission is to safeguard all of the 286 species in the Pheasant group. 

"Don't lose your head," screamed the pheasant. And at the same time his voice broke in a whistling gasp and, spreading his wings, he flew up with a loud whir. Bambi watched how he flew straight up, directly between the trees, beating his wings. The dark metallic blue and greenish-brown markings on his body gleamed like gold. His long tail feathers swept proudly behind him. A short crash like thunder sounded sharply. The pheasant suddenly crumpled up in mid-flight."

- Felix Salten, Bambi