Pheasants are indigenous to an area stretching east from the northern Caucasus to China, Korea and parts of southeast Asia and have long flourished as an introduced species in the rest of Europe, North America, Japan, New Zealand and elsewhere. In Great Britain they have been present at least since the late 11th century and possibly since Roman times. Several different subspecies have been introduced at various times leading to a variety of different plumages, though the Ring-necked Pheasant P.c.torquatus is the predominant form.
    Pheasants prefer farmland habitats with hedges, woodland, copses and parkland, with plenty of cover. They are widely distributed throughout the UK except in the highland areas of northwest Scotland and some of the more mountainous parts of Wales. Numbers are greatly increased each autumn by the release of captive-reared birds for shooting. The growing popularity of this activity has led to a five-fold increase in the numbers of birds released each year since the 1960s, to an annual total of some 35 million nationally, of which about 15 million will be shot while most of the remainder fall victims to predators, road-kill and other threats leaving only a minority to become part of a wild breeding population of around 3 million.
    In Wiltshire Pheasants were recorded in the breeding season in 91% of all tetrads in Birds of Wiltshire, with confirmed or probable breeding in 39%, figures which had increased to 95% with 43% confirmed/probable breeding in WTA2. Some 650,000 to 700,000 are released for shooting each year, while the wild breeding population is thought to total around 15,000.


The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.