Phasianus colchicus (Linnaeus, 1758) PH PHEAS 3940
Family: Galliformes > Phasianidae

Pheasant, Paul Hillion

The non-native Pheasant is easily the most common bird roaming the UK countryside and the species most often shot by humans.

The male Pheasant is a handsome long-tailed bird with metallic iridescent plumage. His courtship display, an explosive double pitched bark and vigorous vibrating of wings, is intended to woo multiple brown-coloured females. Sharp spurs on the back of male's legs are used to fight-off would be competitors.

The majority of UK Pheasants are reared for shooting from imported eggs and chicks. Tens of millions are released annually into the countryside where they consume untold numbers of invertebrates and plants. Breeding Bird Survey data show the increase in Pheasant numbers, and only the far north-western corner of Britain escapes its presence.

Exploring the trends for Pheasant

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Pheasant population is changing.

trends explorer


Pheasant identification is usually straightforward.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Pheasant, provided by xeno-canto contributors.

Flight call

Alarm call


Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



Pheasants have increased steeply in abundance since the 1960s. BBS shows shallow increases in England, Scotland and Wales, and a rapid increase in Northern Ireland, since 1994, with most of these increases occurring during the first ten years of the survey. During 1968-88, a period when the total biomass of birds in Britain fell by an estimated 10%, CBC data indicate that Pheasant biomass rose by about 2,500 tonnes - more than ten times more than any other species (Dolton & Brooke 1999). The increase has been fuelled by a concurrent steep rise in the numbers of Pheasants released onto shooting estates (game-bag data). Numbers have increased across Europe since 1980, again influenced by releases by hunters (PECBMS: PECBMS 2020a>).

Exploring the trends for Pheasant

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Pheasant population is changing.

trends explorer


Following introduction in the 11th century, Pheasants are now widely distributed with the exception of northwest Scotland, and they are scarce on the Outer Hebrides, Skye and Shetland.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2

Breeding Season Habitats

Relative frequency by habitat

Relative occurrence in different habitat types during the breeding season.

>Bar of similar size indicate the species is equally likely to be recorded in those habitats


There have been small gains in Pheasant range in the north and west of Scotland, Wales and parts of Ireland, particularly in the west and southwest.

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Pheasants are recorded throughout the year, with obvious cycle of detection: easily seen in spring when displaying, low detection in summer when hidden in crops, and another peak in autumn as birds are released for shooting.

Weekly occurence of Pheasant from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.


Lifecycle and body size information about Pheasant, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.


Exploring the trends for Pheasant

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Pheasant population is changing.

trends explorer


View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report

Exploring the trends for Pheasant

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Pheasant population is changing.

trends explorer


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Easag
Welsh: Ffesant
Catalan: faisà comú
Czech: bažant obecný
Danish: Fasan
Dutch: Fazant
Estonian: faasan e. jahifaasan
Finnish: fasaani
French: Faisan de Colchide
German: Jagdfasan
Hungarian: fácán
Icelandic: Fashani
Irish: Piasún
Italian: Fagiano comune
Latvian: medibu fazans
Lithuanian: medžiojamasis fazanas
Norwegian: Fasan
Polish: bazant (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: faisão
Slovak: bažant obycajný
Slovenian: fazan
Spanish: Faisán vulgar
Swedish: fasan


Interpretation and scientific publications about Pheasant from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

The population size of this species is principally determined by releases of reared birds for shooting, which have increased sixfold since 1960. Little is known about the impacts of changes in demographic parameters among wild-breeding birds.

Further information on causes of change

It must be noted that numbers of this introduced gamebird are determined principally by releases of reared birds for shooting (Marchant et al. 1990, Pringle et al. 2019). Such releases increased approximately sixfold between 1960 and 2004 (game-bag data) when around 35 million birds were released annually (PACEC 2006). This has since increased to around 44 million birds in 2012 and 47 million birds in 2016 (Aebischer 2019). Around 35% to 40% of released birds are shot, with the remainder dying from other causes or dispersing away from the release site (Madden et al. 2018, Sage et al. 2018). 'Release efficiency' has declined since 1990, i.e. numbers being released have increased faster than numbers being shot (Robertson et al. 2017). Robertson (1991) studied records of Pheasant nests from the Nest Record Scheme and found that productivity is probably too low to sustain a population. There is little else known about changes in demographic parameters of Pheasants in the UK. However, modelling suggests that climate change may have had a positive impact on the long-term trend for this species, possibly caused by either improved breeding success or increased survival of released birds (Pearce-Higgins & Crick 2019).

Information about conservation actions

As a non-native introduced breeding species, Pheasant does not have a conservation status in the UK.

Large numbers of Pheasants are released annually in the UK, and concerns have been raised that this may impact negatively on the conservation status of some native species. There is evidence that high densities of released Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges may be having a positive effect on some avian predator populations, by providing additional winter food resources and hence reducing winter mortality of predators; this may in turn impact negatively on other UK native birds during subsequent breeding seasons through increased levels of nest predation (Pringle et al. 2019).

High Pheasant densities potentially have other negative effects, which have not been adequately studied, on native UK birds: these include their effect on the structure of the field layer in woodland, the spread of disease and parasites and competition for food (Fuller et al. 2005). Infection with caecal nematodes from farm-reared Pheasants may be contributing to the decline of Grey Partridges in Britain (Tompkins et al. 2000b), although Sage et al. (2002) found that this had no population impact.


Peer-reviewed papers
Pheasant, by Edmund Fellowes / BTO

Limited effectiveness of actions intended to achieve a voluntary transition from the use of lead to non-lead shotgun ammunition for hunting in Britain

Are voluntary initiatives to promote the replacement of lead ammunition working?

2023 | Green, R.E., Taggart, M.A., Pain, D.J., Clark, N.A., Clewley, L., Cromie, R., Green, R.M.W., Guiu, M., Huntley, B., Huntley, J., Leslie, R., Porter, R., Roberts, J., Robinson, J.A., Robinson, R.A., Sheldon, R., Smith, K.W., Smith, L., Spencer, J. & Stroud, D.Conservation Evidence Journal

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