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cline01 (1K)

Crested Argus

(Rheinartia ocellata)

Other Names: Rheinard's/Ocellated Argus Pheasant

Subspecies: Rheinard's Crested Argus R. o. ocellata, Malay Crested Argus R. o. nigrescens.

Range: R. o. ocellata - Central Vietnam, Eastern Laos; R. o. nigrescens - Central Peninsular Malaysia.

Habitat: Tropical forests.

Description: Unmistakable, may only be confused with the Great Argus in central Malaysia, but tail is longer in male, head pattern distinctive with ; most noticeable feature are the central tail feathers which are up to 5 inches wide and nearly 6 foot long in adult males. Males attain their adult plumage the third year, but will the tail may not reach full length until the sixth year. Crests are longer in nigrescens and the overall plumage with more pronounced spotting than ocellata.

Description, Female: Smaller than the male, with a much shorter tail; darker overall, the plumage is more barred than spotted as in the males; they have a distinctive head pattern and are also crested.

Status in Wild: The Crested Argus is listed as endangered on many international lists. ocellata is believed to be still locally common, but nigrescens has a limited range and both are threatened by habitat destruction and hunting.

Taxonomy Notes: The genus name is sometimes spelled Rheinardia; has also been known as Argus ocellatus, Rheinhardtius ocellata and Rheinhardius ocellata.

Avicultural Data

Status in Aviculture & Aviculture Notes: The following information was provided by John Corder:

There are none in captivity in the U.S. and, as far as I know, almost none outside Vietnam and Malaysia. There are two sub-species. The one from Vietnam (R. o. ocellata) was the species which Jean Delacour managed to breed for a few years in the twenties. Saigon Zoo has recently managed to breed this species, and this photo was taken there. These birds were bred in Saigon Zoo for the first time in1996 by Dr. Phan Viet Lam.

The second sub-species (R. o. nigrescens) comes from Malaysia and had never been seen in captivity until The Wildlife Department started a breeding project about five or six years ago. 3 males and one female were captured, and two of these birds still remain in their breeding complex at Sungkai. They are quite different to the great argus, which is much more commonly seen in captivity, and is also frequently heard in Malaysia and other lowland rainforest countries.


Click on thumbnails for larger views.

1 2

Photo Credits
(l to r): 1-2, Phan Viet Lam.

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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