Sexual segregation, spring dispersal and late winter to spring habitat selection were studied in the pheasant Phasianus colchicus L. on two areas for which the proportions of different habitats were similar. On one of the sites (Damerham) hand-reared pheasants were released for shooting. On the other (Fulwell) no releasing or shooting took place.
The sex ratio of birds feeding in fields in autumn favoured males because females fed in groups within woods. Groups of birds were significantly segregated by sex during early to late winter periods, but by late March they were not. Male groups and solitary males in winter were more evenly dispersed than female groups.
At Fulwell, female winter groups consisted of regular group members (mainly adults) and transitory individuals called ‘drifters’ (mainly immatures).
Females in their first breeding attempt dispersed further from their winter range to their breeding range than did adult females and females dispersed further than males. Males gaining a territory for the first time moved significantly further than old territory owners. Territorial males moved less than non-territorial males between successive spring ranges.
During March June, habitat use by 33 radio-tagged females changed markedly from mixed and deciduous woodland to fields sown with winter and spring corn. The implications for management are outlined.