Incredibly stupid birds that seem to go out of their way to get killed and eaten. I think they're related to chickens but are even less intelligent -- if such a thing is possible. Driving through any English countryside in the summer you will be beset upon by flocks of pheasants all competing with each other to fling themselves under the wheels of your car.

English Law has an oddity whereby if you succeed in running over one of these game birds (and it's often hard not to succeed), it is illegal for you to pick up the corpse and take it home to cook. However the next person who comes across the dead bird of little brain is perfectly entitled to claim the body for themselves. It's all to do with ancient poaching laws, apparently.

In Roald Dahl's children's story "Danny, Champion of the World" there is a full description of a foolproof method of poaching pheasant.

Pheas"ant (?), n. [OE. fesant, fesaunt, OF. faisant, faisan, F. faisan, L. phasianus, Gr. (sc. ) the Phasian bird, pheasant, fr. a river in Colchis or Pontus.]

1. Zool.

Any one of numerous species of large gallinaceous birds of the genus Phasianus, and many other genera of the family Phasianidae, found chiefly in Asia.

<-- # note collocations in notes have italic font in WEB1913 --> ⇒ The common, ∨ English, pheasant (Phasianus Colchicus) is now found over most of temperate Europe, but was introduced from Asia. The ring-necked pheasant (P. torquatus) and the green pheasant (P. versicolor) have been introduced into Oregon. The golden pheasant (Thaumalea picta) is one of the most beautiful species. The silver pheasant (Euplocamus nychthemerus) of China, and several related species from Southern Asia, are very beautiful.

2. Zool.

The ruffed grouse.

[Southern U.S.]

⇒ Various other birds are locally called pheasants, as the lyre bird, the leipoa, etc.

Fireback pheasant. See Fireback. -- Gold, ∨ Golden, pheasant Zool., a Chinese pheasant (Thaumalea picta), having rich, varied colors. The crest is amber-colored, the rump is golden yellow, and the under parts are scarlet. -- Mountain pheasant Zool., the ruffed grouse. [Local, U.S.] -- Pheasant coucal Zool., a large Australian cuckoo (Centropus phasianus). The general color is black, with chestnut wings and brown tail. Called also pheasant cuckoo. The name is also applied to other allied species. -- Pheasant duck. Zool. (a) The pintail. (b) The hooded merganser. -- Pheasant parrot Zool., a large and beautiful Australian parrakeet (Platycercus Adelaidensis). The male has the back black, the feathers margined with yellowish blue and scarlet, the quills deep blue, the wing coverts and cheeks light blue, the crown, sides of the neck, breast, and middle of the belly scarlet. -- Pheasant's eye. Bot. (a) A red-flowered herb (Adonis autumnalis) of the Crowfoot family; -- called also pheasant's-eye Adonis. (b) The garden pink (Dianthus plumarius); -- called also Pheasant's-eye pink. -- Pheasant shell Zool., any marine univalve shell of the genus Phasianella, of which numerous species are found in tropical seas. The shell is smooth and usually richly colored, the colors often forming blotches like those of a pheasant. -- Pheasant wood. Bot. Same as Partridge wood (a), under Partridge. -- Sea pheasant Zool., the pintail. -- Water pheasant. Zool. (a) The sheldrake. (b) The hooded merganser.

 

© Webster 1913.

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