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cline01 (1K)

Copper Pheasant
(Syrmaticus soemmeringii)

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cline01 (1K)

Scintillating Copper Pheasant

Syrmaticus soemmeringii scintillans
Photo by Hans-Olof Axgren

Additional Information

Breeding Season: Late April to early June.

Breeding Age: First year; adult plumage is also attained the first year.

Clutch Size: 6 to 12

Incubation Period:: 24 to 25 days.

Description - Male: The species is named for the metallic coppery red plumage of the male. To provide accurate descriptions of the subspecies, I have included descriptions from Pheasants of the World, by John Delacour 1977 2nd ed, pp 250-258. S. s. scintillans is the most commonly seen race in captivity, with S. s. ijimae following. While the seasoned breeder can quickly distinguish the races, the beginner to the hobby may have some difficulty. Therefore, with this species I have included these decriptions to prevent any unintentional crossing of the subspecies.

S. s. scintillans - Male: Head deep reddish chestnut; neck feathers light chestnut with large black patches near the base and a fringe of coppery purplish chestnut; mantle alike, but with pale buffy borders on the sides of the feathers turning to white on the back and rump where they become broad; the tone of the buff or white borders varies much individually; rectrices cinnamon with narrow black bars broadly bordered with dark chestnut above and with buffy, spotted with black below; there is a great deal of variation in the rectrices, the central ones having from seven to thirteen bars; breast feathers pale chestnut with black patches and pale greyish buff borders producing a laced appearance, those of the flanks and abdomen paler with a pale buff border; thighs and vent buff and chestnut marked with black and bordered with white; wing coverts and tertiaries alike, but lighter; primaries and secondaries barred with white; wing coverts and tertiaries alike, but lighter; primaries and secondaries barred and vermiculated buffy and blackish brown.
S. s. scintillans - Female: In general resemble those of ellioti and humiae, but the pale streaks on the mantle and breast are very narrow, buff and inconspicuous; crown dark brown; throat light tawny buff; cheeks, sides of neck, mantle and breasy heavily marked with blackish brown which forms an uneven dark collar below the throat; back and rump strongly tinged with grey; underparts like those of ellioti but more buffy; central rectrices barred grey and palce chestnut, vermiculated all over with brown
S. s. intermedius - Male: Similar to scintillans, but slightly darker and richer red all over, particularly on the tail which is longer, and on the abdomen which is of the same color as the breast; borders of feathers golden on most of the mantle and scapulars. Female - Like scintillans.
S. s. subrufus - Male: Differs from the proceeding subspecies in having glittering golden orange borders to the feathers of the mantle and back; those of the rump have some white but often much reduced in size; gerneral color darker red. Tail broader and lighter in color than in intermedius, but not so light as in scintillans. Very variable and unstable. Female - Like scintillans.
S. s. soemmeringii - Male: Differs from subrufus in being stil darker and redder; central rectrice very dark, broarder and not so abruptly pointed; nine to fourteen bars in the tail; all the feathers of the upper parts have golden carmine fringes, and those of the under parts are dark chestnut and black. Female - Darker and more distinctly marked than scintillans.
S. s. ijimae - Male: Similar to soemmeringii, but feathers of the back and rump with broad silky white fringes which may occupy the whole of their visible part on the rump; upper tail coverts with a thin white border; there is a great deal of variation in the width of the white fringes and in the appearance of the lower back and rump which may look pure white or red more or less spotted with white according to specimens. Female: Similar to soemmeringii

Status in Captivity: The most commonly seen subspecies are the Scintillating and Ijima, whose captive numbers appear stable. Sommering's are uncommon in captivity; Pacific were once found in American aviculture, but it is believed that were bred with the other races or died out; Shikoku are extremely rare in captivity and none are believed to be in America.

Misc Notes: Males have the tendacy to be very nasty towards females during the breeding season. Keepers of Copper Pheasants have been successful when housing the male in an adjoining pen, allowing him limited access with the female. Other methods include housing the pair in a very large aviary, with lots of cover and high roosts for the hen to escape an agressive male; clipping the flight feathers of one wing will prevent the male from chasing the hen to higher levels in the aviary. I have spoke with many breeders who have had aggressive males and to those who have had very compatible pairs with docile males, so there are exceptions. A good practice when introducing the pair is to howdy the male in an adjoining pen, allow the birds visual access to one another to see how the male will respond.

The aggressive nature of the male has detered many from working with this species, but this species is in need of captive support and should be encouraged for breeders who are willing for a challenge.

Interesting Facts: Known as the Yamadori in Japan. Species name soemmeringii, in honor of Dr. Samuel Thomas von Soemmering, (1755-1830) a German professor and physician. Described to western science by Dutch ornithologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck (1778-1858) in 1830.

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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.
  • Madge, S., McGowan, P. 2002. Pheasants, Partridges, and Grouse. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
  • 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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