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Lady Amherst Pheasant
Photo by Myles Lamont
Range: Southwestern China, northern Burma. Has been introduced locally
in parts of Great Britain. Attempted introductions 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 popluations here.
Habitat: Mostly wooded 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.
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.
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.
Status in Aviculture: Debated, pure Lady Amherst are considered
rare, but census of breeders show this to be a very common aviary bird.
Captive Diet: The diet is the same as in other pheasant species. We
switch to the higher protein, breeder diet in January and supplement with
greens and various grains. During the "off-season", they are fed a lower protein
pellet mixed with grain. Birds are also offered treats such as peanuts,
mealworms, berries and other fruits.
Breeding Season: Varied depending on climate, usually begins in May.
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: Amherst present no problems to keep in
captivity. 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.
Will readily hybridize with the Golden Pheasant, the offspring being 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. Ruffed Pheasant Hybrid Prevention
The modest demands of the Lady Amherst makes it 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.
Click on thumbnails for larger views.
(l to r): 1-2, Matt Tuttle; 3, Roman Kmicikewycz; 4-8, Dan Cowell.
Bibliography and Further Reading
- Brown, D. 1998. A Guide to Pheasants & Waterfowl, Their Management, Care & Breeding. ABK Publications, South Tweed Heads, Australia.
- Delacour, J. 1977. The Pheasants of the World. 2nd ed., World Pheasant Association and Spur Publications, Hindhead, U.K.
- Delacour, J. 1978. Pheasants: Their Care and Breeding. T.F.H. Publishing, Neptune, NJ.
- Hayes, LB. 1995. Upland Game Birds: Their Breeding and Care. Leland Hayes, Valley Center, CA.
- Howman, K. 1991. Pheasants of the World: Their Breeding and Management. Hancock House Publishers, Surrey, B.C. Canada.
- Johnsgard, P.A. 1999. The Pheasants of the World: Biology and Natural History. 2nd ed., Smithsonian Press, Washington D.C.
- Madge, S., McGowan, P. 2002. Pheasants, Partridges, and Grouse. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
- Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterström, D., Grant, P.J. 1999. Birds of Europe. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
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