You are here


An Asian species introduced by the Romans to Britain for food and still raised for shooting today

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

I am not sure if any 'wild bird' survey or count should include the pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), it is not a natural British species after all. They are an Asian species that seems to have been introduced for food all over Europe and the British Isles by the Romans. That means they have been here c2000 years so they are now pretty British I suppose. However, If they were not bred specifically for 'sport' then there would be no pheasants here at all. It is only because they are farmed and habitat is managed for them that they survive. 

What I find distressing is the practice of some gamekeepers of killing all possible predators of young pheasants so that people can pay for the 'pleasure' of doing it. How many birds of prey are illegally poisoned because they might have an impact on farmed pheasant numbers? As Chris Packham shrewdly points out; it is bizare and shocking that we are shooting scarce native birds so that we can shoot an imported species!

There seem to be less pheasants in Dorset than where we used to live in Hampshire. On the main road from our village to the nearest town you would see countless dead pheasants killed by cars and yet the local gamekeepers would complain that they lost pheasants to foxes and buzzards! Hypocricy rules it seems! I will get down off my soap box now ...


Pheasant: cannon fodder

Common Name Pheasant
Scientific Name Phasianus colchicus
Species Group Birds Game
Status Feral
Interest Level
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Look for

A tall, elegant, mainly rustic brown bird on open farmland

Identification Notes
  • Bred solely for shooting so seen only around country estates and farmland
  • Not actually that common in Dorset 
  • Tall, elegant birds but the female is much duller in colouration for camouflage purposes 
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Game