Crested Fireback Pheasant
Range: Thailand, Malaya, Sumatra & Borneo.
Subspecies: There are four subspecies of the Crested Fireback. The nominate form, Lesser Bornean Crested Fireback (L. i. ignita), is native to southern Borneo; the Greater Bornean Crested Fireback (L. i. nobilis) from northern Borneo; the Malayan or Vieilott's Crested Fireback (L. i. rufa) has the broadest range on the Malay Peninsula and much of Sumatra and the Delacour's Crested Fireback (L. i. macartneyi) found in southeastern Sumatra.
Habitat: Tropical forests.
Description: The following descriptions of the subspecies are from Pheasants of the World by Jean Delacour, 1977 pp 197-204. To keep each subspecies pure, keepers must follow the descriptions closely when selecting breeding stock.
Lophura ignita ignita, Male: Face wattles cobalt blue, of the same shape as those of the Silver Pheasant, that is to say with one large lobe forming a half circle above the eye, and one lower lobe developed forward; head, crest, neck, breast, mantle, rump, tail-coverts and thighs dark purplish blue; wing-coverts dark blue with iridescent ultramarine fringes; primaries and secondaries bluish black; feathers of lower back with a blue-black base hidden by broad fringes of shining coppery maroon; rump and upper tail coverts with large metallic blue fringes; three central pairs of rectrices cinnamon-buff, the remaining five pairs bluish black; there is much individual variation, the third pair sometimes black on its inner web, the fourth sometimes with some buff on the outer web; lower breast and sides of body shining coppery chestnut; abdomen black. Iris red; bill horny white; legs greyish white to flesh colour.
Lophura ignita nobilis, Male & Female: Exactly like ignita, but larger. Male - wing: 280-2293 mm; tail: 254-285 mm; Female - wing: 252 mm; tail: 180-166 mm.
Lophura ignita rufa, Male: Resembles ignita, but heavier in shape, with a larger tail, the central rectrices white instead of cinnamon; whole breast and sides of body dark blue, the feathers of the latter with white shaft-stripes of variable width; the coppery patch on the back redder, less maroon. The face wattles are different in shape, consisting of four lobes regularly disposed around the eyes, much as in Swinhoe's Pheasant, rather lighter blue than in ignita, with a red spot on the border of the lower lobe. The legs are crismon instead of whitish.
Lophura ignita macartneyi, Male: Inermediate between ignita and rufa, and variable. In the phase to which the type belongs, the breast is dark blue, the sides have rufous patches and the central tail feathers are buff; in a few specimens the breast and sides are plain rufous and such birds can only be distinguished from ignita by their heavier shape and the generally paler, less chestnut, rufous parts of the plumage. Another phase, delacouri, has plain rufous sides but the central rectrices are mostly white. In the sumatrana phase, which is the most frequently found, the sides are black marked with rufous, most of the feathers being black at the base and rufous near the tip with a glossy blue-black border; the rufous markings vary much in size and tone and they are narrower near the abdomen; sometimes the black border is lacking, and the breast can be solid dark blue, rufous or mixed; central rectrices white, sometimes washed with pale buff, mostly near the base, more or less marked with black on the outer web. All those colour phases appear to co-exist in the same localities. In a few other cases the rufous markings of the sides are replaced partly or completely by white ones (albipennis) and it seems that such specimens occur close to the range of rufa and are intermediate. The blue face wattles are like those of ignita, with two large lobes, not four as in rufa, and they have no red spots; legs whitish grey as in ignita, not crimson as in rufa.
Status in Wild: Listed as Vulnerable by CITES, the wild population is in decline due to habitat destruction.
Status in Aviculture: The Bornean Crested Fireback, both ignita and nobilis are kept in American aviaries and it is very possible that they are often interbred unintentionally. The population in America is stable, but due to poor management, is becoming inbred. The same can also be said for the Malayan Crested Fireback, which may be declining in captivity. The Delacour's is very rare in captivity and less than a handful of breeders have kept this species.
Breeding Season: May through August.
Breeding Age: Although males attain adult plumage the first year, they are not fully mature until the third year. I have heard that second year birds are often fertile.
Clutch Size: 4 to 8 eggs.
Incubation Period: 24 days.
Misc. Aviculture Notes: Males can be rather aggressive, both towards their keeper and their mates. Prior to the breeding season, it is recommended to house the male in a seperate enclosure, preferably in an adjoining aviary where the pair can see each other. The male can be added to the hen's aviary immediately after the first egg is layed. A small transfer door that can be opened from the outside will cut down on stress when moving the birds. Crested Firebacks are not polygamous as many other species and should only be bred in pairs.
This species prefers a well planted aviary as it simulates a natural habitat for breeding. The hen will choose a spot under a shrub to lay her eggs. Fireback hens are unreliable sitters and eggs should be removed to be placed in an incubator or under a broody hen. The chicks may need a little encouragement to start eating. Mealworms coated with Vionate placed on top of the game bird starter will get the birds to start picking at the food and eventually learn to eat the crumble.
Firebacks make interesting aviary birds. Their flashy colors and unique personalities make them popular with aviculturists. As mentioned, the lines in America are becoming inbred and fewer are being produced each year making the demand, as well as price, very high.
Being from a tropical climate, Firebacks will need protection in the winter.
Heat is required in northern climates where winters are most severe. Aviaries
should be large and well planted if possible. Firebacks like to perch high, so keep this in mind when constructing aviaries.
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