Pheasant, an extensive family of gallinaceous birds, comprising the subfamilies paxoni-nce or peacocks, gallince or jungle fowls, pha-sianince or pheasants proper, lophophorince or monauls, and meleagrinm or turkeys. Of these, the first and most of the second have been described; the fifth will be found under Tuk-key; and only the third, fourth, and a part of the second will be noticed here. The family includes the handsomest of the rasorial birds, and is for the most part confined to Asia and its islands; the Guinea fowl, however, is African, and the turkeys are American; the latter, with the common fowl and the peacock, have been completely domesticated, and are distributed very generally over the globe. The head is rarely feathered all over, but more or less about the eyes and often a considerable part of the neck are bare, and furnished with crests, wattles, and combs of singular forms. - In the phasianince may be included the genera phasianus (Linn.), thaumalea (Wagl.), and argus (Temm.). In phasianus the bill is moderate, strong, vaulted and slightly arched at the tip, which overhangs the lower mandible; the nostrils in a lateral groove and partly closed by membrane; the wings short and rounded, the fourth and fifth quills the longest; tail lengthened, wedge-shaped, with each feather attenuated; tarsi robust, covered in front with divided scales, and in the males armed with a strong spur; toes strong, united at the base by a membrane, the hind toe short and elevated, and the claws stout and slightly curved.
The few species described are naturally inhabitants of the mountainous regions of Asia, but some have been naturalized in temperate Europe; they frequent thick jungles, the sexes keeping separate except in the breeding season, when they form families of a single male and several females, each with their special locality, from which all intruders are expelled. They are rapid runners, and fly rapidly and noisily for short distances; the food consists of grains, seeds, bulbs, and insects, which they seek usually toward sunset; they roost in trees in the cold season; the eggs are 10 or 12, and are laid generally on the ground, with very little if any nest. The common pheasant (P. Colchicus, Linn.) is about 3 ft. long, of which the tail is nearly half; the male is bright rufous above, the head and neck blue with green and golden reflections, and variegated with black and white; the cheeks bare and red, the sides and lower parts purplish chestnut; tail with transverse black bands; the female is smaller, brownish gray, varied with reddish and dusky.
This bird is supposed to have been introduced from the banks of the Phasis, a river of ancient Colchis, on the E. coast of the Black sea, whence its scientific name; it is generally distributed over S. Europe, but in the northern parts requires protection by stringent game laws to prevent its extinction; it could probably be introduced with advantage into the temperate parts of America. Its habits are much like those of the common fowl; it breeds in confinement, but is apt to neglect its eggs, which are therefore usually placed under a common hen; it will breed with the common and Guinea fowls, in the wild state with the ring-necked species, and, it is said, also with the black grouse. A breed called the ring-necked pheasant has a white ring around the neck, and is either a mere variety, or a hybrid with the P. torquatus (Gmel.) of China. Pheasant shooting is a famous pastime in Europe, and great numbers are killed at battues; they are special favorites with poachers; the flesh is excellent. In confinement they are subject to an epidemic and often fatal disease, called the "gapes," caused by a nematoid strongyloid parasitic worm (scleros-tomum syngamus, Dies.), which produces inflammatory swelling of the windpipe, and frequently suffocation; the best remedy is fumigation with tobacco carried to stupefaction.
There are other more beautiful species in Japan and northern Asia. - The genus thaumalea differs from the last in having the head furnished with a crest of long slender feathers, and a kind of tippet of lengthened feathers around the back of the neck. The golden pheasant (T. picta, Wagl.) is perhaps the most gaudy of the family, the brilliancy and variety of its plumage being beyond description; it is well known in aviaries and collections; the general color is golden yellow above, scarlet below, with yellow crest, green back, brown hood, and blue secondaries; it is about the size of the common pheasant, but the tail is longer; as usual in the family, the female has a plain brownish plumage. It is a hardy bird, a native of China, kept in domestication, and highly prized for the table. - In the genus argus the seventh and eighth quills of the wings are the longest, with the secondaries remarkably prolonged; the toil is long and compressed, with the two middle feathers much elongated; the tarsi long and slender, without spurs; head and neck covered only with scattered hairs.
The argus pheasant (A. giganteus, Temm.) is about the size of a common fowl, but the two middle tail feathers are 3 1/2 or 4 ft. long; the under parts and lower neck are reddish brown spotted with yellow and black; the back ochrey yellow, with black and brown spots; tail deep chestnut with white spots surrounded by a black ring; secondaries about 3 ft. long, brownish, but when spread adorned with beautiful ocel-lated spots like those in the peacock's tail; the female is dull chestnut red, varied with yellowish brown and black, without the development of the tail feathers and secondaries. It is found in the dense forests of Sumatra and the other large East Indian islands, where it lives in pairs. The long secondaries, which render flight difficult, are of great service to the bird when running, acting in the manner of sails; these feathers, with those of other brilliant gallinaceous birds, are exported from Batavia as ornaments for dresses, screens, fans, and similar objects. This bird does not thrive in confinement. - In the subfamily gallince should be mentioned here the genus gallophasis (Hodgs.) or euplocomus (Temm.), in which the wings are moderate and much rounded, with the fourth to the seventh quills nearly equal and longest, and the secondaries ample and broad; tail and its coverts ample, with compressed sides, arched or straight, and sometimes forked; tarsi long, strong, and armed with a large spur; the sides of the head bare, with wattles at the base of the lower mandible, and sometimes a crest.
They inhabit the primeval forests .of India and its islands, preferring the close covers of mountainous districts; they are usu-, ally seen in parties of eight or ten, which run rapidly among the brushwood when alarmed. The silver pheasant (G. nycthemerus, Hodgs.) has the throat, under parts, and ample crest glossy purplish black, the feathers being generally lanceolate; the rest of the plumage pure white, the webs of the feathers of the back diagonally streaked with black; legs and feet purple lake, and large, naked, velvety space about the eyes bright vermilion. It is a powerful bird, and a match for a game cock; it is a native of northern China, where it is often kept in a tame state; being very hardy, it is frequently carried to Europe, and, with the golden pheasant, forms a pleasing addition to aviaries. About a dozen other species are described. The genus ceriornis (Swains.) includes the brilliant tragopans. (See Tragopan.)
Common Pheasant (Phasianus Colchicus).
Golden Pheasant (Thaumalea picta).
Argus Pheasant (Argus giganteus).
Impeyan Pheasant (Lophophorus Impeyanus).
In the subfamily lophophorince belong some very remarkable pheasants. The genus lo-phophorus (Temm.) has the upper mandible very much curved over the lower, the fourth and fifth quills longest, tail ample and rounded, and tarsi armed with a short spur. The Impeyan pheasant (L. Impeyanus, Vieill.) is about 2 ft. long; the colors of the plumage defy description or representation, being resplendent with ever changing hues of green, steel-blue, violet, golden, and bronze, dense and metallic in appearance, but soft and velvety to the touch; the middle of the back pure white, and the tail bright chestnut with transverse bars of a duller tint; on the head is a crest of feathers with naked shafts and oval tip of metallic hue; the female is smaller, of a general reddish brown, mottled with spots and bars, with throat and fore neck white. This species, named in honor of Lady Impey, inhabits Nepaul and the Himalaya mountains.