Ring-Necked Pheasant

This conspicuous game bird was introduced to Iowa around 1900 during a windstorm that blew over pens of captive birds. Now, Ring-necked Pheasants bring in nearly $85 million annually as the most popular hunted species in our state.

More information

See the Ring-necked Pheasant's profile on the Corenll Lab of Orinthology website.

Photo Credit

Collage Photo (above): By Richard Crossley (The Crossley ID Guide Britain and Ireland) [CC BY-SA 3.0]



There aint too much to say bout that. 
I was only lonely once in my life.
I wrapped a ring around my neck and fell asleep pleasantly.

The patterns on my feathers contain every color in the spectrum: pumpkin, wood, snow, anthill, frosting, geode, disco ball, etc. My "Caw!" was a gift from Mongolia. The tips of my wings, like thin fingers zinging a harp.

Chinese fireworks in feather explodes 
from the cornrows, craw full and dogs below. 
Hens are wiser and hang behind. 
Full choke Browning brays six point pellets. 
Mottled feathers pop from his chest, 
drift on the west wind as the bird’s plumes flatten, 
and he outraces them to the ground. 
A dappled pointer bitch intercepts him. 
Like a ground-bound MIG she mouths 
him softly and deposits him at her 
master's feet, adulation and triumph 
powering her tail.

By Steve Rose

There is not much I know about pheasant; except once I had it cooked in honest mustard, and it was quite pleasant.


The reporter stands in the hurricane chamber.
"This is...a category three," he wheezes, skin pulling from his face.
I am in Iowa where there are no hurricanes, but where a windstorm
brought us the Ring-necked Pheasant.
I'm waiting for a windfall of money;
I don't care where it blows in from.
Some of my neighbors say they'd never
take Illinois money, but how would they know.

Prairie pride stains cheeks red.
Indigo neck echoes the rich dyes reserved only for kings, only for queens. 
It shimmers in ultraviolet hues, a spectrum of color, and history, 
the human eye cannot see. 


sibling victory
spotting a pheasant from the
back seat of the Ford

in every letter you write your loneliness
to me obvious as color 
but i know better than to succumb 

you will find wing someday

Bird Song

Ring-necked, I ring with color
above and below my priestless collar,
green head, masked for your red death.
Don’t shoot, go home, cook up your meth.

Kill yourself, leave my wild speckled body alone;
Iowa, O Iowa, my accidental home.
Poisoned streams, rivers, lakes, ferti-laced fields,
Thanks, wind, for blowing me free, unconcealed.

What poor stewards we have been, uncaring curators 
while these beauties crossed our roads. 
I used to see them in the morning scurrying 
but when I see them now hardly ever but when I do 
I know they are numbered with numbers smaller than our numbered days.
We ringed their necks with our forks our guns our knives our greed.

See! from the brake the whirring pheasant springs,
And mounts exulting on triumphant wings:
Short is his joy; he feels the fiery wound,
Flutters in blood, and panting beats the ground.
Ah! what avail his glossy, varying dyes, 115
His purple crest, and scarlet-circled eyes,
The vivid green his shining plumes un-fold,
His painted wings, and breast that flames with gold?

Frosting feathers.
Spots and dots.
A glottal trill and
cocoa velvet thrills
the air where
electric blue sky
meets roots above
ground, one thousand
miles from the sea.

Two dimensional splots hand-
painted on a grandmama's dishware:
dishwater hands, somewhere;
brown and tiny. Like the frizzy under-
feathers that keep the bird 
warm, capable
of holding such a noble pose
long enough to be admired.

Pleasant pheasant put a ring on it
Not pheasant under glass
But Some Like It Hot is playing
In the background

Call the males "moose"—
the females, "butterclucks."
Call them with whistles
shaped like lips that imitate
the bullies of their childhoods.
They will never be free 
of the taunts and teasings.
They will never be four-season
free under the bubble.

Shanghaied by Americans 
more than 100 years ago,
Unwitting immigrants, 
Birds of many colors.
The intentions sound safe: 
pheasant under glass, 
pheasants forever. 
Instead we hunt them
And savor their crispy skin.

Pale green egg
Hidden nests on the ground
Inconspicuous in fields that have become home
Beware the season the intention is revealed