A lot of Pheasants’ male on male ‘fighting’ is based on appearance rather than violence. But, if necessary, the long spurs will be used in anger The black points within the red wattle are important in attracting females, as is the length of the ear tufts. But neither are as important as spur length Bizarrely, all that feathered opulence seems to be cheap currency, even in the Pheasant’s world. One might think that, with the shimmering, burnished gold and bronze background to complex bars, speckles, spots and chevrons, the fabulous body plumage would bring every female Pheasant to its knees. Yet it seems that it doesn’t – or at least, its magnificence is taken for granted and makes no difference to a male’s prospects. Scientists have tested what does curry favour, and it isn’t shimmering colours. The length of the tail does matter, and so do the black points within the colourful red wattle on the face. The length of the ear tufts appeals to females, and can be important when males face up to each other during territorial challenges. However, the bottom line for Pheasants is something you might not even notice. Hidden away amidst all the conspicuous add-ons, the single most important characteristic for any male Pheasant is the length of its spurs, the claws on its feet. Long claws are the truest measurement of a male’s quality. Long-spurred males sire more hatchlings than shorter-spurred birds and, notably, those hatchlings have a significantly enhanced survival rate throughout later life. Not surprisingly, males with long spurs have higher rates of success in acquiring mates. So it really seems that all the ‘plastic’ is not especially important to the birds themselves. They hardly seem to need it.