The Melanistic form of the Common Pheasant was first obeserved in Norfolk in 1880 and was not bred as a mutation until the 1920-30s when a few dark colored hen was located in Cambridge(Delacour, 1977). The bird was first thought to be a hybrid between colchicus & versicolor, as dark versicolor had been found in wild birds in Japan, however, experimental breeding in the early years of the mutation found this not the the case (Hachisuka, 1927).
This is a pure mutation, in which when bred to normal colored birds, the chicks are either mutant or normal, with the normal coloration dominate. When two mutants are bred together, they breed true. It is uncertain which specific subspecies was known to have produced the mutation as the majority of birds on Great Britian are a mixture of the different races released for sport. The year it first appeared in American aviaries is uncertain.
As we enter the 21st Century, there are still a good number of this mutation available in aviculture that breed true. There are perhaps more of this mutation in existence than some the pure races of colchicus! This mutant has been observed in wild populations in both the UK & the US. It is sometimes confused with Phasianus versicolor, but should be noted that this is a much darker bird.
gbwf.org © 1997-2012, Dan Cowell
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