Breeding Bird Atlas 1 Species Accounts
Number of Broods
The cock Ring-necked Pheasant is vocal principally during the breeding season in late March to early April, when he crows and claps his wings to establish a territory of a few acres. The males may fight fiercely for possession of a territory. Nesting begins in early April. Male pheasants are polygamous and will copulate with several hens, leaving the latter to incubate the eggs and rear the young. In areas with a high population, four or more hens may nest within the territory of a single male. When flushed, males give several loud squawks. Females have a quieter queep call.
Pheasant nests consist of little more than crude depressions in the ground in hayfields, orchards, woodland borders, and hedgerows. Clutch size ranges from five to twenty-three (average eleven), and, should the first clutch be destroyed, the hen will generally lay a smaller second set. Eggs are slightly smaller than those of a chicken. The color ranges from pale green to olive brown or even occasionally to light blue. The hen incubates for 23 to 25 days.
Young pheasants are precocial and are able to fly by two weeks of age but remain dependent upon the hen for six to eight weeks. For a short time after the chicks hatch, the hen may resort to a feigned broken-wing display to distract enemies, but, as is typical with all ground-nesting species, there may be heavy losses of eggs and young to a host of marauders including domestic cats. The Great Horned Owl is the most significant avian predator on young and adult pheasants.
In late summer and early fall, as the young reach adult size, broods break up, and the birds separate by sexes into flocks. Bands of hens are generally larger than those of the males. Such groups range for food over an area of 1 or 2 miles. Roosting sites are in small woodlots, swamps, or brush areas, where there is some protection from winter winds.