The Pheasant

This beautiful bird comes originally from the East, and takes its name

from the river Phasis, in Colchis, Asia Minor, whence it was first

brought to Europe by the Argonauts. The pheasant is one of the most

beautiful of all fowls, and can only be rivalled by the peacock. The

shifting hues upon his neck, and the brilliant scarlet and black around

his head, strike every beholder with admiration. Pheasants are very good

to eat, but sportsmen are not allowed to shoot them until the 1st of

October, in order that they may have time to rear their young. In

ancient times the pheasant was held in reverence by the heathen, and it

was only on the most solemn occasions that they were used as food, and

then only by the emperors of Rome. There are no pheasants in America,

and, on account of their short wings and heavy bodies, they never fly

from one country to another. But they increase very rapidly in number, a

single pair having been known to produce as many as 183 eggs in a

season. The sportsman, however, takes care to keep their numbers within

due limits. Their habit of squatting or sitting so close to the earth,

has been supposed to be an instinctive act to save themselves from the

attacks of the hawk, who is unable to master his prey, if large and

strong, near the ground, where it could offer resistance. I have met

with a story of a pheasant which proves that this bird is very bold and

courageous. "A young lady walking alone a few miles from Stirling (in

Scotland), observed a beautiful cock pheasant perched on a stone by the

road side. Instead of showing timidity at her approach, he flew down

upon her, and, with spurs and beak, began a furious assault. Being

closely pursued, and seeing no way of escape from the enraged bird, she

adopted the only alternative that was left, namely, of seizing her

adversary, whom she carried home, but soon afterwards released; on the

door being opened, however, he went out without any sign of fear, and,

with a deliberate step, paced backwards and forwards in front of the

house, and manifested an inclination to join the fowls in the poultry

yard. It should be remarked that the young lady, when attacked, wore a

scarlet mantle, which probably excited the irritability of the pheasant,

as it is well known to do that of the turkey-cock, and some other


Wild pheasants feed on grain, seed, green leaves, and insects. They have

been seen as eager as country children after the ripe blackberries in

the hedges, or, later in the year, after sloes and haws. The root of the

buttercup is also a very favourite food of the pheasant, and they will

eat greedily of acorns. When kept in confinement, the young birds

require very careful feeding with ants' eggs, and many other kinds of

soft provision.

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