Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Ring-necked Pheasant - Phasianus colchicus
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General Comments This Asian species has been introduced into several parts of North Carolina over the past 100 years, but only a few areas along the immediate coast were able to provide sufficient habitat for populations of Ring-necked Pheasants to become established, with "long-term" breeding populations. These sites -- Hatteras Island, Ocracoke Island, Portsmouth Island, and Core Banks -- may have reached their population peaks in the 1960's and 1970's. After that time, mammalian predators, especially the Gray Fox and perhaps the Red Fox also, made their way onto Hatteras Island. By about 1990, the Ring-necked Pheasant population on that island had disappeared, though there was a record in 2013. The small population on Ocracoke Island also seems to now be gone, leaving only a few birds, apparently, left on Cape Lookout National Seashore (Core Banks and Portsmouth Island). The favored habitat on the Outer Banks for this gallinaceous bird is grasslands and low, brushy thickets. Note that there are scattered reports from other places in the state away from these barrier islands, but these are certainly from locally released individuals or populations that are not yet established.
Breeding Status Breeder; Introduced
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SE
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Permanent resident; nonmigratory. Restricted to the Outer Banks between Oregon Inlet and Barden Inlet. At its peak in the 1960's and 1970's, it was fairly common at Pea Island NWR, but much less numerous (mostly rare to uncommon) southward on the island; and mostly uncommon on the other islands south to Cape Lookout. Thought by 2015 to be extirpated from Hatteras Island (with the last eBird report from 2014). Perhaps extirpated from Ocracoke Island (no eBird sightings in over 10 years) and rare to uncommon (at best) on Portsmouth Island and Core Banks. Of note were 7 seen on Core Banks on 18 Jul 2015, indicating a still viable population there. Despite it once being numerous on Pea Island, there were never any reports from across Oregon Inlet at Bodie Island, nor do there appear to be any reports from Shackleford Banks, just across Barden Inlet from Cape Lookout/Core Banks. Peak counts: ?
Piedmont No established populations.
Mountains No established populations.
Finding Tips Up until around 1990, this was not a hard bird to find in NC, as birds could often be seen at New Field and elsewhere on Pea Island. Foxes are believed to have essentially destroyed this population. Now, your best bet to see the species is take a boat or ferry to Portsmouth Island or to Core Banks, where they can be found with some effort. You may occasionally see one at Ocracoke Island feeding along the edge of NC 12, but most trips on the island come up empty-handed, and they might be gone from that island now.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-02], LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2015-12-26]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.