Other Names: No general names, see the list of subspecies for geographical names.
Range: South-western China, eastern Burma, southern Vietnam, southwestern Cambodia, southeastern Thailand, northern Laos and the island of Hainan.
Subspecies: 15 subspecies according to Johnsgard, 1999. True Silver Pheasant (Lophura nycthemera nycthemera) being the most commonly claimed in aviaries. The True Silver is the largest of the subspecies and is found in southeastern China. The other subspecies include the Lewis' Silver Pheasant (L. n. lewisi), the Annamese Silver Pheasant (L. n. annamensis), the Boloven Silver Pheasant (L. n. engelbachi), the Bel's Silver Pheasant (L. n. beli), the Berlioz's Silver Pheasant (L. n. berliozi), the Ruby Mines Silver Pheasant (L. n. rufipes), the Rippon's Silver Pheasant (L. n. ripponi), the Jones' Silver Pheasant (L. n. jonesi), the Western Silver Pheasant (L. n. occidentalis), the Lao Silver Pheasant (L. n. beaulieui), the Fokien Silver Pheasant (L. n. fokiensis), the Hainan Silver Pheasant (L. n. whiteheadi), Szechwan Silver Pheasant (L. n. omeiensis) and the Rang Jiang Silver Pheasant (L. n. rongjiangensis).
Two additional subspecies that are often considered Silver Pheasants are the Crawfurd's Kalij Lophura nycthemera crawfurdi and the Lineated Kalij Lophura nycthemera lineata. Recent DNA work published in the Ibis, notes that these races should be belong with leucomelanos instead of nycthemera. Click here to view the article in PDF format. If new data becomes available for nycthemera and leucomelanos, I will be sure to include it on this site.
Habitat: Diverse, both grasslands and bamboo, evergreen and decidous forests.
Description: The male True Silver L. n. nycthemera has a long black crest, a black chin and throat, with a glossy bluish-black belly. The rest of the body is white, with many black lines. Their tails can be quite long, with the central feathers pure white. One of the most noticeable features are the bright red face wattles which are used during courtship. Silvers do not acheive their brillant plumage until their second year. First year males often have many black markings on the chest, while the rest of the body is mostly brown with light gray streaks. Hens are drab, olive brown overall. There is much variation from hen to hen in the streaking of the belly, and I have never seen two hens exactly alike. Hens have a much smaller and paler face wattle. The bill is gray and the feet red. Immature Silvers resemble hens, but are often lighter or paler.
Lewis' L. n. lewisi males are somewhat similar to L. l. crawfurdi, but tail and crest some what longer, the markings on the upperparts are bolder; hens have a long crests, greyish brown overall, very fine vermiculations in contrast to the two mentioned.
Variation among the subspecies is great and I would love to have complete descriptions of each. In the meantime, one should consult Pheasants of the World by Jean Delacour for the complete descriptions.
Status in Wild: Varies among races. nycthemera and fokiensis are considered common and stable, others such as annamensis, whiteheadi and engelbachi have smaller natural ranges and are vulnerable to habitat loss.
Interesting Facts: They are well known in ancient Chinese art and
poetry. I have read that these birds were also referred to as the White Phoenix.
Status in Aviculture: Common and well established, but it is believed that many of the races have been interbred and therefore pure forms of the subspecies remain rare in captivity. Of the mentioned subspecies, I can only find vague information on those kept in American aviculture. It is believed that most of the different subspecies which made it to America have interbred with the True Silver and basically I refer to most Silvers here as "American Silvers". There are a few out there who care enough to maintain pure lines, but in general, most just want what is the cheapest. Lewis' and Jones' are kept by a handful or so American breeders, but their long term outlook is not good.
There are also American breeders who are trying to create subspecies by selective breeding of jumbled lines we have here. This was done recently with a breeder claiming to have engelbachi, these were nothing more than "American" Silver bred together that had markings close to the original race. I also saw a breeder who claimed to have Ruby Mines rufripes, I begged for more information, but never got a reply and seriously doubt their existence. It is a shame, but many pheasant breeders will claim or say anything to make an extra buck. We have really lost sight of conservation in American pheasant aviculture and most just care for pheasant business. Those of us who want to preserve pure species and subspecies are left scratching our heads as we try to sort through decades of mass-produced, inbred, hybrid birds. I feel that imports of wild caught birds are needed and a strict studbook should be kept for Silver & Kalij Pheasant subspecies.
Breeding Season: Silver are among the first birds to begin laying. Don't be surprised to find an egg when there is still snow on the ground! In Missouri, my birds would begin to lay in late February and early March, slowing down in May.
Breeding Age: Second year, but first years birds are often fertile.
Clutch Size: 6 to 15
Incubation Period: 26-27 days.
Misc. Aviculture Notes: Bold, curious, beautiful and majestic, the Silver Pheasant is a perfect aviary bird and great for beginners to pheasant keeping. Male Silvers have a reputation of being aggressive towards their keepers and hens. I've had many males that I had to ward off with a stick and on the other hand, our current Silver male is perfectly harmless. They are big birds that are extremely tough and hardy. We once had an ice storm and had to go pull the Silvers off the roost to place them inside the shelter, only to see them back outside again on the roost within an hour! Many keepers also allow Silvers free range on their property.
It is recommended to allow the hens to go broody, as they are great mothers and is very interesting to observe the family behavior of this species. The male, despite his reputation of being mean, does participate with the rearing of the chicks. The chicks do grow quickly and are able to fly at only a few days.
I've seen Silvers breed in nearly all sizes of aviaries. An ideal aviary is
one that is at least 120 square feet, landscaped with various shrubs,
grasses, logs and rocks. They are extremely hardy and tough birds, only a minimal
shelter is required during the winter months. Ample shade is recommended during
the summer. I've ran into problems when trying share the aviary with other bird
species, if this is a must, place feed & water stations in areas where the Silvers
do not have access.
Additonal articles in PDF form uploaded to GBWF; content on files not owned by GBWF, but important and informative data that I want to share with our users.
Click on thumbnails for larger views.
Bibliography and Further Reading
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