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Bornean Peacock-Pheasant

(Polyplectron schleiermacheri)

The following page was put together with assistance from Tjoen Wijaya.

Subspecies: The Bornean Peacock Pheasant is a lowland forest pheasant endemic to the island of Borneo and considered by some to be a full species; but when one is familiar with both Malay PP and this species, one cannot help to notice the peculiar similarities which make the Bornean PP seem more correctly considered to be a sub-species of P. malacense as in Smythies. These similarities include: very closely marked upperparts and tail (save for the shorter tail and black sub-terminal band), both with an orange facial and periophthalmic region and the diagnostic black (dark) ear coverts and the structures of both crest and ruff at the neck. Both the Malay and Bornean PP notably have a single-egg clutch, which is the norm for both species.

Range: Distributed historically and with museum specimens collected throughout various localities on the island of Borneo; in East, Central and Western Kalimantan, Indonesia and possibly existing in some locations in Sabah and Sarawak, North Borneo . Extremely rare and local in distribution.

Habitat: Lowland forests; where survival of the species probably depends upon the future of lowland primary forest below 300m.

Based on recent fieldwork and the extent of its remaining habitat, the population is estimated to be between 1000 and 2,499 (BirdLife 2008)). The species is presumed always to have been difficult to detect, possibly reflecting very low densities.

Its ecological needs are poorly understood, research shows the species inhabits lowland plain and lowland dipterocarp forest on moderately fertile soils, probably avoiding wetter substrates in swamp-forest or near water bodies. Recent studies confirm the use of closed dry lowland dipterocarp forest habitats (Fredriksson & Nijman 2004) but a tolerance for regenerating habitats has yet to be properly established.

Description, Male: Crown short crested, barred pale grey and black, the centre glossed with green; ear-coverts black; a large ruff of disintegrated feathers barred black and pale grey, tips metallic violet-blue; upper parts as in P. m. malacense but much redder, the ocelli smaller and greener; tail shorter, the ocelli smaller, less closely connected on the coverts; there is a green ocellus on the outer web of the lateral rectrices and a dull black spot on the inner web; throat and upper breast pure white; sides of breast metallic blue-green; centre of the lower breast white, the rest of the upper parts black with whitish shafts and tiny vermiculations; under tail-coverts spotted brown and black patch near the tip. Iris - grey/white; facial skin orange-red; bill and feet dark grey. Like others of the genus, males can develop a number of spurs on each leg.

Description, Female: Similar to P. m. malacense but more reddish generally; tail shorter, the upper coverts are without blue ocelli, those of the rectrices is smaller and ill-defined; the rectrices are irregularly and coarsely barred with black. Iris light brown; facial skin orange, bill and feet grey. Hens do not develop spurs on their legs.

Status in Wild: Listed as endangered. (2008 IUCN Red List Category)

Over-exploitation for food and logging has contributed to a rapid decline. In many parts of Borneo, the habitat is becoming fragmented, due to the conversion of the forest to agricultural land and oil-palm plantations. The species will be probably be confined to protected areas in the future.

Avicultural Data

Status in Aviculture: Extremely rare in captivity and not believed to be in American aviaries at this time; status in locations outside of Asia is unknown. The species has been recorded as being kept and bred in captivity by the Fitzsimmons/Denton Farms in Livermore, CA in the 1970s but was but was believed to have died out and hybridised with other species of Polyplectron. And recently a small group has been imported and established in the UK by the Conservation Breeding Avicultural Group of the World Pheasant Association.

Misc. Aviculture Notes: This species was first recorded in aviculture in the late 1960s through 1970s in the Fitzsimmons/Denton Farms in the US . They were also the first to successfully breed and rear the species in captivity. There are breeding populations in the UAE and Singapore which have bred the species for many years and from here, additional stock has been sent to other locations for conservation breeding purposes.

The laying season in their own country can be all the year round but in captivity the breeding season can be starting in February/March through to September / October (the timing is similar to the Mountain & Malaysian PP recorded in Europe). The hen will normally make a scrape on the ground, preferably under an overhanging bush or between clumps of grass to lay her single egg.

The Bornean Peacock-pheasant incubates its single egg for 21 days, the hen usually incubates the egg on her own and will brood the chick up to at least 8 weeks of age. The hen sitting on her own egg and hatching it is always preferable to other forms of incubation and similarly brooding her own chick; they learn so many skills, calls and behaviours from the hen during their growing up.

In the wild the male plays no part in incubating and rearing the chick. It is vital to monitor the behaviour of the male during this stage as, in captivity, it may be necessary to part the pair, since some males can be very aggressive towards the chick. Others will happily feed titbits to the chick if they find them on the aviary floor, although seldom from a food bowl.

However, it has been noted that adult males of breeding pairs in adequately sized aviaries do not usually show any aggression to the chick as the hen being the primary caregiver is able to lead her single chick to other areas of the aviary. Young stock do not usually reach maturity until they are at least 2 years old, although males which are not in full colour have been known to sire fertile eggs.


Click on thumbnails for larger views.

1 2 3

Photo Credits
(l to r): 1-3, Sebestian Tan.

Bibliography and Further Reading

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • MacKinnon, J., Phillipps, K. 1993. The Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Bali, the Greater Sunda Islands. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Madge, S., McGowan, P. 2002. Pheasants, Partridges, and Grouse. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
  • DSmythies, B.E.; & Davison, G.W.H. 1999. The Birds of Borneo. 4th ed. Natural History Publications (Borneo).
  • Stattersfield, A.J., Crosby, M.J., Long, A.J., Wege, D.C. 1998. Endemic Bird Areas of the World, Priorities for Biodiversity Conservation. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.


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