pheasant

/fez"euhnt/, n.
1. any of numerous large, usually long-tailed, Old World gallinaceous birds of the family Phasianidae, widely introduced.
2. any of various other birds that resemble or suggest a pheasant.
3. Southern U.S. the ruffed grouse.
[1250-1300; ME fesaunt < AF; OF fesan < L phasianus < Gk phasianós (órnis) (bird) of the Phasis, river in the Caucasus]

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Any of about 50 species of mostly long-tailed birds in the family Phasianidae (order Galliformes), chiefly Asian but naturalized elsewhere.

Most species inhabit open woodlands and brushy fields. All have a hoarse call. The feet and lower legs are unfeathered. Females are inconspicuous. Most males are strikingly coloured and have one or more leg spurs, and some have a fleshy facial ornament. Males sometimes fight to the death for a harem of hens. Male ring-necked or common pheasants (Phasianus colchicus), 35 in. (90 cm) long, have a streaming tail, coppery breast, purplish green neck, and ear tufts; they are widespread in the northern U.S. Japanese green pheasants (P. versicolor) call in concert when an earthquake is imminent.

Common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

H. Reinhard
Bruce Coleman Inc./EB Inc.

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bird
      any bird of the family Phasianidae (order Galliformes) that is larger than a quail or partridge. Most pheasants—some 50 species in about 16 genera of the subfamily Phasianinae—are long-tailed birds of open woodlands and fields, where they feed in small flocks. All have hoarse calls and a variety of other notes. The males of most species are strikingly coloured; the females are inconspicuously coloured. A male pheasant—pugnacious in breeding season—has one or more leg spurs and may have fleshy ornaments on the face. Courting males sometimes fight to the death in the presence of hens, who seem utterly indifferent to the commotion.

      The centre of distribution of pheasants was originally from China to Malaysia. Several species, however, have been naturalized elsewhere—two thousand years ago or so in Anatolia and Europe—and many are prized as ornamentals in zoos and private collections; they are also raised for sport in shooting preserves. Some species have been brought to the verge of extinction by hunting.

 The common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus; see photograph—>) has 20–30 races ranging across Asia. Birds naturalized elsewhere are mixtures of races, with the gray-rumped ringneck (or Chinese) strain usually dominating.

      The pheasant prefers grain fields near brushy cover. The male, about 90 cm (35 inches) long, with streaming, narrow, cross-barred tail, has a brown back and coppery breast, purplish-green neck, and two small ear tufts; his entire body is speckled and barred. He collects a harem of about three brownish, relatively short-tailed hens. The grassy nest contains about 10 eggs, which hatch in three to four weeks.

      The green pheasant, or kiji (P. versicolor), of Japan, is mainly metallic green. It is sensitive to earth tremors not felt by humans and calls in concert when a quake impends.

      The argus pheasants, of southeastern Asia, carry long feathers covered with “eyes.” Two distinct types are known: the crested argus, or ocellated pheasants (Rheinardia), and the great argus (Argusianus). The great argus of Malaya, Sumatra, and Borneo (A. argus) can attain a length of 2 m (6.5 feet). During display the large “eyes” seem to revolve as the bird quivers.

 Ornamental pheasants have been kept for centuries, and the birds are represented in collections throughout the world. The best-known ornamentals in the West are two species of ruffed pheasants: Lady Amherst's (Chrysolophus amherstiae; see photograph—>) and the golden pheasant (C. pictus).

      Several pheasants are of exceptional coloration. Such are the monals (monal), or Impeyan pheasants, of south-central Asia. The male Himalayan Impeyan (Lophophorus impejanus) has a metallic-green head and throat, coppery nape and neck, green-gold mantle, purplish wings, white back, orangish tail, and black underparts; the hen is streaked brown. The Chinese monal (L. lhuysii), now found only in western China, is an endangered species.

      The male tragopans, or horned pheasants (Tragopan species), of Asia also, are among the world's most colourful birds. They show a bright apron of flesh under the bill during courtship, and short fleshy horns. The white-spotted plumage may be mainly red, yellow, or gray.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pheasant — Pheas ant, n. [OE. fesant, fesaunt, OF. faisant, faisan, F. faisan, L. phasianus, Gr. ? (sc. ?) the Phasian bird, pheasant, fr. ? a river in Colchis or Pontus.] 1. (Zo[ o]l.) Any one of numerous species of large gallinaceous birds of the genus… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • PHEASANT — PHEASANT, the game bird Phasianus colchicus. The pheasant was known in Greek as Φασιανός and hence in mishnaic Hebrew as פַּסְיוֹנִי (pasyoni). It is not mentioned in the Bible, although pseudo Jonathan identified it with the biblical שְׂלָו… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • pheasant — [fez′ənt] n. pl. pheasants or pheasant [ME fesant < Anglo Fr < OFr faisan < L phasianus < Gr phasianos, after Phasis, river of Colchis: the birds are said to have been numerous near its mouth] 1. any of a number of large gallinaceous… …   English World dictionary

  • pheasant — late 13c., from Anglo Fr. fesaunt, O.Fr. faisan (13c.), from L. phasianus, from Gk. phasianos a pheasant, lit. Phasian bird, from Phasis, river flowing into the Black Sea in Colchis, where the birds were said to have been numerous. The ph was… …   Etymology dictionary

  • pheasant — ► NOUN ▪ a large long tailed game bird, the male of which typically has showy plumage. ORIGIN Greek phasianos bird of Phasis , a river in the Caucasus from which the bird is said to have spread westwards …   English terms dictionary

  • Pheasant — For other uses, see Pheasant (disambiguation). Phasianinae Mongolian Ringneck type Common Pheasant cock Scientific classification Kingdom …   Wikipedia

  • pheasant — [[t]fe̱z(ə)nt[/t]] pheasants N COUNT (pheasant can also be used as the plural form.) A pheasant is a bird with a long tail. Pheasants are often shot as a sport and then eaten. N UNCOUNT Pheasant is the flesh of this bird eaten as food. ...roast… …   English dictionary

  • pheasant — UK [ˈfez(ə)nt] / US [ˈfezənt] noun Word forms pheasant : singular pheasant plural pheasant or pheasants a) [countable] a large bird with a long tail that is hunted for sport and food b) [uncountable] the meat from a pheasant …   English dictionary

  • pheasant — noun (plural pheasant or pheasants) Etymology: Middle English fesaunt, from Anglo French fesant, faisan, from Latin phasianus, from Greek (ornis) phasianos, from phasianos of the Phasis River, from Phasis, river in Colchis Date: 13th century 1.… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Pheasant — This interesting surname, of English origin, is a nickname for someone bearing a fancied resemblance to the bird, deriving from the Middle English fesaunt meaning pheasant . The surname dates back to the mid 12th Century (see below). Further… …   Surnames reference

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