Pheasants are not native Irish birds. We don’t know exactly when they were introduced here but they were brought in by the Normans and were certainly present in considerable numbers by the year 1600.
The original reason for the introduction was for food, though the males, with their long tails and spectacular plumage, were also prized as ornamental birds.
With the development of the sporting shotgun in the 1800s the rate of introductions accelerated and birds are still imported to this day.
A number of different species are kept in aviaries and wildfowl collections but two races of the common pheasant have naturalised in the Irish countryside. The commonest is the Chinese race which has a white neck ring; a smaller, darker race from western Asia without a white neck ring was probably the first to be introduced and is still with us.
In the Republic the season for shooting pheasants (restricted to male birds except under special licence) opens on November 1st and runs until the end of January.