The Golden Pheasant (or Chinese Pheasant) is native to forests in mountainous areas of western China, but feral populations have been established in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
The adult male is 90 to 105cm in length, its tail accounting for two-thirds of the total length. It is unmistakable with its golden and rump and bright red body. The deep orange “cape” can be spread in display, appearing as an alternating black and orange fan that covers all of the face except its bright yellow eye with a pinpoint black pupil.
Males have a golden-yellow crest with a hint of red at the tip. The face, throat, chin and the sides of the neck are rusty tan. The wattles and orbital skin are both yellow in color, and the ruff or cape is light orange. The upper back is green and the rest of the back and rump is golden-yellow. The tertiaries are blue whereas the scapulars are dark red. Other characteristics of the male plumage are the central tail feathers, black spotted with cinnamon, as well as the tip of the tail being a cinnamon buff. The upper tail coverts are the same color as the central tail feathers. The male also has a scarlet breast and light chestnut flanks and underparts. Lower legs and feet are a dull yellow.
The female is much less showy, with a duller mottled brown plumage similar to that of the female cinnamon pheasat. She is darker and more slender than the hen of that species, with a proportionately longer tail (half her 60 to 80 cm length). The female’s breast and sides are barred buff and blackish brown, and the abdomen is plain buff. She has a buff face and throat. Some abnormal females may later in their lifetime get some male plumage. Lower legs and feet are a dull yellow.
Both males and females have yellow legs and beaks.
Despite the male’s showy appearance, these hardy birds are very difficult to see in their natural habitat, which is dense, dark young conifer forests with sparce undergrowth. Consequently, little is known about their behaviour in the wild.
They feed on the ground on grain, leaves, and invertibrates, but they roost in trees at night. While they can fly, they prefer to run. If startled, they can suddenly burst upwards at great speed and with a distinctive wing sound.
Although they can fly in short bursts, they are quite clumsy in flight and spend most of their time on the ground. Golden pheasants lay 8-12 eggs at a time and will then incubate these for around 22-23 days.
The male has a metallic call in the breeding season.
There are also different mutations of the golden pheasant known from birds in captivity, including the dark-throated, yellow, cinnamon, salmon, peach, splash, mahogany, and silver.