Why Do Pheasants Have A Long Tail? (Explained)

by Chukay Alex
Updated on

Pheasants, especially the males are reputed for their gaudy plumage and extra long tails which sometimes drag behind them.

A pheasant’s tail is sometimes the whole length of its body or twice of it.

Males have exceptionally long tails while the female tails are shorter. The long tails are considered to be useful during courting displays as females are usually more impressed with a male who has a clean and long tail.

Today we will discuss the beauty of pheasants’ long tails, whether the tails have any meaning, do they wag their tails and if they can lose their tails.

Does The Length Of The Tail Mean Anything?

Why Do  Pheasants Have A Long Tail

The length of the tail on a pheasant, especially the males, is quite important. A male with a good length of tail is considered to be quite sexy by the ladies.

The long tapered tail is instrumental when the males are courting the hens.

A male pheasant can measure up from 60 to 90 cm with the tail making up over 35 to 50cm of the tails

For example, some popular ring-necked pheasants breeds in Asia are known for their colorful, long tail feathers that they spread, ruffle and point towards the hen during the process of courtship.

Studies have shown that females prefer roosters with longer tails as it is seen as a sign that the male can offer protection to them.

The tail length, length of ear tufts and black points on wattles are some of the factors usually put into consideration by the females.

The long tails are also used by the males when they are trying to intimidate other males.

Pheasants have a natural pecking order and there is always a dominant male or one of the roosters trying to be.

Also, the pheasants with the more lengthy tails use their tails to defend their territories from other males by spreading out in a warning.

This defending of territories is more often a breeding territory as a pheasant rooster can have a harem of close to 8 females. 

Related: Here is an article I wrote on why do pheasants hiss

What Is The Purpose Of A Pheasant’s Tail?

A pheasant’s tail can be useful for various reasons as stated above. Female pheasants do not usually make use of their tails as they are shorter in length.

Both sexes use their tails to show some behaviors such as when they are feeding and running.

When they’re feeding, they keep their tail horizontal and when they’re running, they keep it at a 45-degree angle.

Apart from these the males also use the tails during courtship displays and to stake the boundaries of their territories from other mails.

A female is more inclined to be impressed by a long tailed pheasant rooster than the rooster with a shorter tail.

The belief is that females see the long tails as a sign the male can offer protection to them when they get broody and have chicks.

This is quite important as pheasants are a species that are preyed upon quite regularly. 

Also, roosters establish their breeding territories once mating season is around. A rooster more often has a harem of females, which can range from about 3 to 8 females.

Once a rooster has established his territory, he warns the other males away from it. 

The dominant male will pick an aggressive stance and spread out his tail as a warning to the other males. 

What Breed Of Pheasant Has A Long Tail?

Not all pheasant breeds have long tails, the world has about 55 different species of pheasants who have varieties of plumage, color distinguishment and tail length.

The long tailed pheasants come from the Genus symarticus family and there are 5 species of the long tailed pheasants. They include:

  • Reeves’s pheasant 
  • Elliot’s pheasants 
  • Bar-tailed pheasant 
  • Mikado pheasant 
  • Cooper pheasant 

Out of all five, the Reeve’s pheasant is reputed to be the world’s longest tailed pheasant. The male of the species grows to about 210cm in males with the tail length reaching from about 100 cm to 160 cm.

The females grow to about 150cm with their tail measuring between 30 to 50cm.

The tail of the male bird increases by about 30cm every year and this has made this species the world’s longest tailed pheasant. 

Does It Hurt A Pheasant When You Grab It By The Tail?

If for one reason or the other you need to hold your pheasant then do not ever try to grab it by its tail.

Pheasants are spooky birds which are not yet domesticated and will not tolerate touch easily. 

When trying to catch a pheasant do not grab its tail as the tail will break off or cut clean. This hurts them and also affects their beautiful look.

Though in time, they tend to regrow the tails, if they were broken off however, it’ll take more time and will not grow back till they start molting. 

Many pheasant keepers usually report having to go through great stress in order to catch their birds for health checks.

There are several techniques to catch pheasants and you can check out the steps to do that.

Do Pheasants Wag Their Tails?

Pheasants male sometimes wag their tails especially during the courtship ritual. The Lady Amherst’s male pheasant puffs up and shakes their tail while trying to impress the hens.

Male Himalayan Monal pheasants also wag their tails- though shorter and raise their wing feathers while dancing around the female.

Tail tilting, spreading and wagging are used by the male pheasants as visual cues to signal the hens. It also goes together with waltzing, side display and or frontal display.

Also check out this article on why pheasants usually leave their eggs

Do Pheasants Lose Their Tails?

Pheasants lose their tails from time to time depending on their situation.

If you try to grab a pheasant by its tail, it is more likely that the tail will break off, hurting the pheasant and predisposing it to infection.

Pheasants also have a terrible cannibalistic behavior which is well exhibited among captive birds when they are in a tight space and overcrowded.

Most often the behavior starts from when they are chicks and becomes more prominent in juveniles and adults.

When they are bored or stressed, the birds like to pick and they can focus on a weak bird.

They keep pecking at the tail till it breaks off and will not stop until the victim dies from infection or severe injuries.

To curtail this behavior in pheasants, some flock keepers usually hang shoestring or toys so they can use that as entertainment and divert attention.

It is also important for pheasant owners to provide enough space for the birds. Each bird should have its own space, so they don’t get overstressed and pick on each other.

Some flock keepers also make use of peepers on the pheasant’s beaks to avoid picking.

They place the peepers on their beaks, and this blocks their forward vision and prevents them from seeing other birds to pick on.

Peeping is quite effective at ensuring the birds do not pick at each other. It is safe and doesn’t hurt the bird when putting it on or removing it. 

Also if pheasants are left in muddy conditions where their tails drag, are exposed to predators or freezing rain they can lose their tails. 

How Long Is A Pheasant Tail?

The length of a pheasant’s tail is dependent on the pheasant species. The Reeves pheasant which is the longest tailed pheasant in the world can grow between 100-150 cm in males. 

Some tails have even been recorded to grow as much as 200 cm. The tail of a pheasant is a thing of beauty and pheasants are usually hunted for that and also for their colorful plumage.

Many pheasant breeders always strive to ensure that they breed long tailed pheasants and have used this in setting a standard.

Male pheasant have longer tails than the females and this has been attributed to the fact that they are larger in size and have a wider wingspan.

The Ring necked pheasant, Golden pheasant and Lady Amerhust pheasants can grow a tail as long as 50 cm in length. 

Not all pheasant species have long tails, the Himalayan monal pheasant for example has a very short tail which it shakes during the courtship dance. 

Conclusion

Pheasant flock keeping has become more popular in recent times and people have wondered why they have such long tails. 

The tails of the pheasants is one of their most distinguishing characteristics and they are sometimes used for ornamental purposes.

These tails help the males to get the ladies attention and it also helps them in setting breeding territories and intimidating other males.

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About the author

Chukay Alex

Chukay is a season writer and farmer who enjoys farming and growing plants in his backyard farm. When he is not farming you can find him at the nearest lawn tennis court, hitting a mean backhand down the line.