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cline01 (1K)

Crested Fireback Pheasant
(Lophura ignita)

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cline01 (1K)

Lophura ignita

Lophura ignita
Photo by Jan Harteman

Additional Information

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

Incubation Period:: 24 days.

Description - Male: 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.
Length: 650-670 mm; wing: 270-280 mm; tail: 240-260 mm; culmen: 37 mm; tarsus: 110-120 mm.
Males assue the adult plumage the first autumn but do not breed till the second year.

Description - Female: Head, crest and upper parts rufous chestnut, the wings and tail coverts finely vermiculated with black; rectrices black, finely vermiculated with dark chestnut edges; chin and throat white; feathers of breast, sides and thighs chestnut to blackish brown with white borders producing a scaly effect; abdomen white. Soft parts as in the male, but base of the bill brown; no spur in normal birds; legs sometimes tinged with brown.
Length: 560-570 mm; wing: 234-254 mm; tail: 156-177 mm; culmen: 33 mm; tarsus: 76 mm.
Immature: Dark brown and somewhat like the female, the wing-coverts with large black spots, the male darker. At four months like the adults, but duller.
Downy Chicks: Crown and nape rufous; upper parts blackish brown, with buff bars on the wings and narrow whitish latero-dorsal bands; face pale rufous, a black line from eye to ear coverts; under parts buffy white, the breast and flanks washed with rufous.

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.
The male assumes the adult plumage the first year, but may keep for some time a rufous tinge on the shaft-streaks of the flanks.
Length: 650-700 mm; wing: 270-300 mm; tail: 265-295 mm; culmen: 37 mm; tarsus: 100-110 mm.
Female: Similar to ignita, but easily distinguished by its red legs and its entirely chestnut tail. Also much bigger and less high on the legs.
Immature: Much like those of ignita. Young males have the middle tail feathers chestnut with narrow black bars and rufous shaft-stripes on the flanks.
Downy Chicks: Very like ignita, but a little darker.

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.
Wing: 270-300 mm.
Female: Like rufa but brighter chestnut; tail very bright chestnut-bay; dark vermiculations faint on the wings and absent on head, neck, mantle and tail. A wild female from Monaradoea, Palembang, mentioned by Kloss, shows these characteristics well. There is no doubt a great deal of variation in the females.

Status in Captivity: 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.

Misc 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.

cline01 (1K)
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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.
  • Robson, C. 2002. Birds of Thailand. 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.

cline01 (1K)

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