Natural Sightings pheasant

A male Golden Pheasant in Bear Valley Springs.

Contributed by Donna Smith

Donna Smith took this photo at her Bear Valley Springs home of a male Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) that happened by her bird bath last week.

Golden Pheasants, also known as Chinese Pheasants, are a highly esteemed gamebird but of course aren't native to the Tehachapi Mountains. These almost cartoonishly colorful birds originated in coniferous forests in the western mountains of China. Donna and her husband, Chuck, have never raised Golden Pheasants, so they are unsure where this one came from.

Like many bird species, the male is far more ornate and female Golden Pheasants are colored dark brown with attractive lighter barring on the fringes of their feathers. Their ornithological name is descriptive, for Chrysolophus comes from an Ancient Greek word meaning "with golden crest," and pictus means "painted" in Latin.

Over the years there have been a number of Ring-necked Pheasants released in Cummings Valley for hunting purposes, and some of them have managed to persist for quite awhile, though they have never been able to establish a sustaining population. Perhaps the wayward Golden Pheasant was intended to be part of a hunt, but managed to slip away and made it to BVS. Or possibly it simply escaped or was released by someone who raised it.

Like other pheasants, the colorful Goldens can fly, but not especially well, and they spend most of their lives on the ground, eating seeds, vegetation and occasional invertebrates.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.