Pheasants (/ˈfɛzənt/ FEH-zənt) are birds of several genera within the family Phasianidae in the order Galliformes. Although they can be found all over the world in introduced (and captive) populations, the pheasant genera native range is restricted to Eurasia. The classification "pheasant" is paraphyletic, as birds referred to as pheasants are included within both the subfamilies Phasianinae and Pavoninae, and in many cases are more closely related to smaller phasianids, grouse, and turkey (formerly classified in Perdicinae, Tetraoninae, and Meleagridinae) than to other pheasants.[1]

Mongolian ringneck-type
common pheasant Male
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Superfamily: Phasianoidea
Family: Phasianidae
Horsfield, 1821
Groups included
Cladistically included but traditionally excluded taxa
Pheasant fowling, "Showing how to catch pheasants", facsimile of a miniature in the manuscript of the "Livre du Roy Modus" (fourteenth century).
Cheer pheasant pair in Himalaya, India

Pheasants are characterised by strong sexual dimorphism, males being highly decorated with bright colours and adornments such as wattles. Males are usually larger than females and have longer tails. Males play no part in rearing the young.

A pheasant's call or cry can be recognised due to the fact it sounds like a rusty sink or valve being turned.

Pheasants eat mostly seeds, grains, roots, and berries, while in the summer they take advantage of insects, fresh green shoots, spiders, earthworms, and snails. However, as an introduced species, in the UK they are a threat to endangered native adders.[2]

The best-known is the common pheasant, which is widespread throughout the world, in introduced feral populations and in farm operations. Various other pheasant species are popular in aviaries, such as the golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus).


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "pheasant" ultimately comes from Phasis, the ancient name of what is now called the Rioni River in Georgia. It passed from Greek to Latin to French (spelled with an initial "f") then to English, appearing for the first time in English around 1299.[3]

Species in taxonomic order

This list is ordered to show presumed relationships between species.

Previous classifications

Euplocamus and Gennceus are older names more or less corresponding to the current Lophura.

These old genera were used for:

Vernacular Hume & Marshall Finn: Sporting Birds Finn: Game Birds Contemporary
Vieillot's crested firebackE. viellotiLophura rufa (sic)L. ignita rufa
Black-backed kalijE. melanonotusG. melanonotusL. leucomelanos melanota
Common or white-crested kalijE. albocristatusG. albocristatusL. leucomelanos hamiltoni
Nepal kalijE. leucomelanusG. leucomelanusL. leucomelanos leucomelanos
Purple, Horsfield's or black-breasted kalijE. horsfieldiG. horsfieldiL. leucomelanos lathami
Lineated kalijE. lineatusG. lineatus also: Burmese silver pheasantL. leucomelanos lineata
Anderson's silver pheasant ?G. andersoni, considered hybrid of L. nycthemera and L. l. lineataL. nycthemera andersoni (invalid)
Crawfurd's silver pheasant (or Crawford's? )E. andersoniconsidered a further cross of Anderson's and L. l. lineata ?
Crawfurd's kalij (same as C.'s silver pheasant?) ?G. andersoniL. leucomelanos crawfurdi
Cuvier's kalij ?G. cuvieri ?
Oates's kalij ?G. oatesiL. leucomelanos oatesi
Whitehead's silver pheasant ?G. whiteheadi ?
Swinhoe's kalij ?G. swinhoiiL. swinhoii


  1. Kimball, Rebecca T.; Hosner, Peter A.; Braun, Edward L. (2021-05-01). "A phylogenomic supermatrix of Galliformes (Landfowl) reveals biased branch lengths". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 158: 107091. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2021.107091. ISSN 1055-7903. PMID 33545275. S2CID 231963063.
  2. Nicolas Milton (1 Oct 2020). "Game birds 'could wipe out adders in most of Britain within 12 years'". Guardian newspapers.
  3. "pheasant". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)


  • Beebe, William. 1918-22. A Monograph of the Pheasants. 1st edition in 4 volumes: H. F. Witherby, London. Reprint: 1990, Dover Publications.(4 volumes bound as 2). ISBN 0-486-26579-X and ISBN 0-486-26580-3. Republished as: Pheasants: Their Lives and Homes. 2 vols. 1926. Single volume edition: New York Zoological Society, 1936.)
  • Green-Armytage, Stephen. 2002. Extraordinary Pheasants.Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York. Book ISBN 0-8109-1007-1.
  • Madge and McGowan, Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse ISBN 0-7136-3966-0
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