Range: Western China
Natural Diet: Seeds, grasses, and small insects
Diet at Rain Forest: Prepared poultry diet supplemented with fresh greens and seed.
Keepers Notes: The Golden or "Chinese" Pheasant is a naturally occurring game bird of the order Galliformes.
This stunning bird is native to forests in mountainous areas of western China, but feral populations have been established in the United States and elsewhere.
Of all of the birds at RainForest the Golden Pheasant is one of the most popular and most photographed. It is very beautiful, hardy, and surprisingly easy to keep for zoo staff.
This species of pheasant has been kept in captivity since as early as 1730 and was likely the first type of pheasant brought to North America.
There is evidence that George Washington may have kept them at Mt. Vernon! For being so well known and familiar in captivity, very little is known of their habits in the wild, in the mountains of central China.
The adult male is 33-48 inches in length, its tail accounting for two-thirds of the total length. It is unmistakable with its golden crest and rump and bright red body. The deep orange "cape" can be spread in display, appearing as an alternating black and orange fan that covers all of the face except its bright yellow eye, with a pinpoint black pupil.
Males have a golden-yellow crest with a hint of red at the tip. The face, throat, chin, and the sides of neck are rusty tan. The wattles and orbital skin are both yellow in color. The ruff or cape is light orange. The upper back is green, and the rest of the back and rump are golden-yellow in color. Males also have a scarlet breast and scarlet and light chestnut flanks and under parts. Their lower legs and feet are a dull yellow.
The female (hen) is much less showy, with a duller mottled brown plumage similar to that of the female Common Pheasant. She is darker and more slender than the hen of that species, with a proportionately longer tail (half her 25-30 inch length). The female's breast and sides are barred buff and blackish brown, and the abdomen is plain buff. She has a buff face and throat. Some abnormal females may later in their lifetime get some male plumage. Their lower legs and feet are a dull yellow.
Both the males and females of this species have yellow legs and yellow bills; these start off dark after hatching and turn brighter with age.
Despite the male's showy appearance, these hardy birds are very difficult to see in their natural habitat, which is dense, dark young conifer forests with sparse undergrowth. As a result of the dense foliage and its related difficulty in traversing, little is actually understood concerning the natural behavior of this beautiful bird in the wild.
They feed on the ground on grain, leaves, and invertebrates but roost in trees at night. While they can fly, they prefer to run. Many species of pheasant exhibit the same behaviour of running away versus flying. As is often the case with other pheasant species when startled, they can suddenly burst upwards at great speed, with a distinctive wing sound.
Although they can fly in short bursts, they are quite clumsy in flight and spend most of their time on the ground. Golden Pheasants lay 8-12 eggs at a time and will then incubate these for around 22–23 days. They tend to eat berries, grubs, seeds, and other types of vegetation.
The male has a metallic call in the breeding season.
The Golden Pheasant is commonly found in zoos and aviaries. Private collections of unusual poultry keepers also will often contain these stunning birds. A similar species, the Lady Amherst's Pheasant, is often kept with this species.
There are also different mutations of the Golden Pheasant known from birds in captivity, including the Dark-throated, Yellow (or Yellow Gold), Cinnamon, Salmon, and Snowflake.
Size: Males up to 4 feet long including tail feathers, females much smaller.
Status in Wild: This species is listed as Least Concern