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Can Pheasants Fly? What You Need To Know!

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golden pheasant standing near rocks

Can pheasants fly? The flight abilities of birds range from completely flightless to long-distance marathon flyers. While pheasants can fly short distances, they are not the champion flyers of the bird world.

Let’s look at the flight ability of pheasants and how they compare to other types of birds.

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Do Pheasants Fly?

Silver Pheasants

Image Credit: 70154, Pixabay

Pheasants can fly but prefer to spend most of their time living on the ground. If they feel threatened, they may just run away from danger rather than fly. When they do fly, they only travel short distances.

When startled, a pheasant can fly upwards in a short burst of energy but will not fly far. A typical pheasant’s normal flight speed is between 25–40 miles per hour, but they can fly faster in those short bursts, to around 55 miles per hour.

How does the flight ability of pheasants compare to other kinds of birds, and why is there so much variation in how birds fly?

Types of Flight in Birds

Ornithologists have identified several avian flying styles. Different birds specialize in different styles, including game birds like pheasants.

The two main types of flight are flapping and soaring (also called gliding). While some birds can soar on currents of air without flapping their wings, others use flapping to maintain flight.

Many birds will use a combination of flapping and soaring, depending on circumstances. Pheasants can’t soar like seagulls and hawks, bird species known for their soaring flight. Besides pheasants, other birds that flap their wings include ducks and geese.

Some birds use their wings to “fly” underwater, like cormorants and puffins. Hummingbirds have a unique flying style that allows them to hover in place as they sip nectar from flowers.

Flightless Birds

Ring Necked Pheasants Close up

Image Credit: juhasuhonen1, Pixabay

Some types of birds are completely flightless. Most scientists believe that they once were able to fly but lost the power of flight over time because the environments they lived in made the ability to fly less necessary.

Well-known flightless birds include the ostrich, emu, and kiwi, but there are many other species of flightless birds. The dodo is a famous flightless bird that went extinct. Flightless birds can be vulnerable to predators, including humans.

Often, flightless birds evolved on islands with no predators. Some flightless birds developed other defenses like large size, sharp talons, and the ability to run.

While not flightless, pheasants belong to a group of birds that live primarily on the ground and fly occasionally.

Birds That Live on the Ground

Birds that mostly live on the ground are known as terrestrial birds. Terrestrial birds can fly, but they forage for food, nest, and roost on the ground or in low vegetation.

Pheasants are terrestrial birds. Other game birds are also terrestrial, like quail and partridge. They tend to be plumper and have shorter wings than birds that spend more time flying.

Living on the ground can make a bird vulnerable to predators, which is why females and young pheasants will have camouflaging feathers. Males have brighter plumage. They also tend to live in groups for safety and can run quickly.

Birds That Fly Long Distances

Ring Necked Pheasants flying

Image Credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay

Pheasants don’t migrate or fly very far, but several birds are known for flying very long distances. Most of these long-distance flyers use the soaring flight method.

The albatross is a large seabird with a very long wingspan that can stay in the air for days. They can soar over the ocean when there’s no land in sight.

Birds that have very long migration routes tend to be champion flyers. The arctic tern migrates from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere each year, about 24,000 miles of flight per year.

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Are Pheasants Chickens?

Pheasants are like chickens in their flight style and other characteristics. Although they are different species, they are both known as “galliform” birds.

The galliform group includes domestic poultry (also called fowl) and wild game birds.

Many birds that humans use for meat and eggs fall into this category. Besides pheasants and chickens, it includes turkeys, grouse, partridge, and peacock.

They are all terrestrial birds, adapted to life on the ground and only able to fly for short distances. The pheasant is like the chicken in its unexceptional flying ability, but not all birds need to be champion flyers!


Featured Image Credit: webandi, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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