Lady Amherst Pheasant

(Chrysolophus amherstiae)




Lady Amherst Male

Chrysolophus amherstiae
Photo by Myles Lamont


Subspecies: None.

Range: Southwestern China & northern Burma. Has been introduced and is breeding locally into parts of Great Britain. Attempted introductions have taken place throughout the world, including New Zealand and Hawaii. Birds may also be seen in a semi-feral state in the US, mostly escapes from aviaries or purposely released. It is doubtful there are any breeding populations here.

Habitat: Forested areas and bamboo thickets.

Description: Unmistakable and well known in aviculture, however, many captive birds may show signs of breeding with the related Golden. The following description first appeared in the May 1994 edition of the HOAGBA, Heartland News, Terry Smith, editor.

Male
Head & Neck - Crown: Short metallic green; Crest: Crimson, narrow, stiff elongated feathers; Face & Throat: Black with metallic green spots; Bare Facial Skin & Lappet: Bluish or bluish-green; Ruff: White, rounded feathers with a blue or black border; Beak: Bluish gray Iris: Yellow. Body - Mantle: Metallic bluish green, rounded feathers with a black border edged with scintillant (sparkling) green; Upper & Middle Back: Black with a green bar and a wide buffy yellow fringe; square, broad feathers; Rump: Black with a green bar and a vermilion fringe (like an irregular patch), square, broad feathers; Breast: Metallic bluish green, rounded feathers with a black border edged with scintillant green which is wider and brighter than mantle Lower Breast: White; Flanks: White, sometimes with a slight tinge of pale yellow over the white on the lower sides; Abdomen: White; Vent: White, barred with black and brownish-gray. Wings - Scapulars: Metallic bluish green, with black border edged with scintillant green; rounded feathers; Wing Coverts: Dark metallic blue with black borders; Primaries: Blackish-brown sparsely barred with buff. Tail - Central Rectrices: White, with curved unbroken crescent shaped blackish-blue bars and wavy black lines on the interspaces; Other Rectrices: Similar on the narrow inner web, silvery-gray passing to brown outside with curved black bars on the outer web; Upper Tail Coverts: Mottled black and white with long orange-vermilion tips; Under Tail Coverts: Black and dark green more or less barred with white; Length: 33 7/8 to 45 inches. Legs & Feet - Thighs: Mottle white, black and brown; Tarsus & Feet: Bluish gray. Size - 50 to 66 1/2 inches.
Female
Head & Neck - Crown: Reddish chestnut with black barring; Sides of Head & Neck: Blackish brown, spotted with cinnamon buff strongly washed with reddish chestnut with dark blackish barring with a green sheen; Face: Buff, strongly tinged with reddish chestnut; Upper Throat: Pale buff, sometimes white; Lower Throat: Buff, strongly tinged with reddish chestnut; Lores, Cheeks, & Ear Coverts: Silvery gray spotted with black; Orbital Skin: Light slaty-blue; Beak: Bluish-gray; Iris: Brown, sometimes pale yellow or gray in older hens. Body - Mantle: Rufous (rust) buff, strongly washed with reddish-chestnut, with dark barring having a greenish sheen; Back: Chestnut, strongly vermiculated with black; Flanks: Buff with dark blackish barring; Breast: Buff with darkish brown barring with a green sheen; Abdomen: Pale buff, sometimes white. Wings - Wing Coverts, Tertiaries & Secondaries: Rufous buff, washed with reddish chestnut, black barring with a green sheen, bars courser that those on the mantle. Tail - Rufous brown, rounded feathers at the tip, strongly marked with broad irregular bars of black, buff and pale gray vermiculated with black; Length: 12 1/8 to 26 3/4 inches. Legs & Feet - Thighs: Buff, mottled black and brown; Legs & Feet: Bluish-gray. Size - 26 to 26 3/4 inches

Status in Wild: Believed to be uncommon, but not endangered.

Interesting Facts: Named for Sarah, Countess of Amherst (1762-1838). William Pitt Amherst, Governor General of India and husband of Sarah, was responsible for sending the first birds to London in the early 1800s. Chrysolophus from the Greek word chryseos meaning golden and lophos, Greek for crest.

Avicultural Data

Status in Aviculture: Debated, pure Lady Amherst are considered rare, but a census of breeders show this to be a very common aviary bird.

Breeding Season: Varied, depending on climate, but usually begins in May. I have had aviary birds lay as early as January.

Breeding Age: While the adult plumage is not attained until the second year, first years birds are often fertile.

Clutch Size: 6-12

Incubation Period: 23-24 days.

Misc. Aviculture Notes: Lady Amherst Pheasants present no special problems to keep in captivity. Very hardy birds, they are able to withstand both extremes of temperature as long as their some modest protection from the elements. They are polygamous and several hens can be kept with a single male. These birds are very active and aviaries should be fairly large with plenty of branches and other objects for enrichment. When planning for this species, be sure to include the planting of shrubs and small trees in their aviary.

Lady Amherst Pheasants are light eaters and can be fed a mixture of grains and crumbles or pellets. Ensure that they are given greens and fruits as often as possible. Treats such as mealworms and crickets are also enjoyed.

Will readily hybridize with the Golden Pheasant and the offspring between the two species are fully fertile. This has been done for years in captivity, many unaware the damage it causes to pure bloodlines. Recently, there have been certain breeders trying to "cash-in" on creating new mutations using hybrids. This should be discouraged and if you have hybrids in your aviary, do not breed them and if you must surplus these birds, please make sure let the buyer know what they are and that they should not breed them. It is mentioned on this site over and over again, we do not encourage or approve the breeding of two pure wild species

The modest demands of the Lady Amherst Pheasant make this an ideal species for the beginner to pheasant keeping. They are docile and can be kept with other bird species such as doves, small hookbills and finches.


Images

Click on thumbnails for larger views.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Photo Credits
(l to r): 1-2, Matt Tuttle; 3, Roman Kmicikewycz; 4-8, Dan Cowell; 9, Michael Baker.


Bibliography and Further Reading



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