The Golden Pheasant stands as one of the most popular of all pheasant species kept in captivity. Scientifically called Chrysolophus pictus, the Golden Pheasant happens to be a gamebird of the order Galliformes and the family Phasianidae. This bird is native to forests in the mountainous areas of western China. Feral populations have, however, been established in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
The Golden Pheasant is a very unique bird in the sense that it is very beautiful, hardy, easy to keep and great for beginners. It should be noted that this bird has been kept in captivity since 1740, and perhaps was the first type of pheasant brought to North America. Evidence abounds that George Washington may have kept them at Mt. Vernon.
Along with the Lady Amherst Pheasant, this species makes up the group of pheasants called the Ruffed Pheasants. They are so named for their cape or ruff which is spread around their face and neck during courtship. In fact, these two species are so closely related, and due to this many breeders have crossed them, making “pure” Golden and Amherst pheasants hard to find in captivity.
The mature adult males have a full, silky golden-yellow crest with, perhaps, a slight tinge of red at the tip. Furthermore, the male has its face, throat, chin and the sides of the neck to be rusty tan. Its wattles and orbital skin are also found to be yellow. The upper back of the male happens to be green while the rest of the back and rump assume a golden-yellow color.
The breast happens to be scarlet; the flanks and underparts are scarlet changing into a light chestnut. The tertiaries of the wing are blue and the scapulars are dark red. The central tail feathers are black and spotted with cinnamon. The upper tail coverts are the same color as the central tail feathers. Immature males resemble females, but will have a spotted tail and varied patches of red throughout the plumage.
The female Golden Pheasant, on the other hand, possesses a much duller coloration than the male. It usually, at first site, appears as an overall rufous brown bird with dark barring and a buff face and throat. Its breast and sides are a barred buff and blackish brown. The abdomen of the female is a plain buff and varies from hen to hen. Despite these distinguishing features, the two sexes share a couple of things in common. They both have yellow legs and bill.