Swinhoe's Pheasant

(Lophura swinhoii)




Swinhoe, WPA Photo

Other Names: Formosan Pheasant, Blue Pheasant

Subspecies: None recognized.

Range: Mountains of central Taiwan.

Habitat: Forests.

Description: Adult males are larger than the similar edwardsi and also differ in having a short white crest, a blue head, neck and breast, but the red face wattles are much more developed. There is a large white patch on the upper back, the shoulders are maroon and the wing-coverts are metallic greenish-black. The long central tail feather is white. Hens are mostly brown, speckled with triangular yellowish-buff markings. First year males look similar to adult males, but are duller and the white patch on the back is mottled brown.

Status in Wild: At one time, the wild population was in danger of extinction with under 200 birds remaining. Fifty years later, thanks to protection, national park establishment and a reintroduction of captive-bred birds, wild numbers are now stable in Taiwan.

Interesting Facts: Named for British ornithologist and naturalist Robert Swinhoe, 1836-1877, who first described the species in the 1862. He is also known for describing 16 other bird species from Formosa.

Avicultural Data

Status in Aviculture: Well established and common.

Breeding Season: Begins early here in the midwest, not uncommon to have hens lay in early March and usually lasts through mid May.

Breeding Age: Second year, but first year birds are often fertile.

Clutch Size: 3 to 6

Incubation Period: 24-26 days

Misc. Aviculture Notes: Swinhoe are one of the best beginner pheasants to this hobby. They do require a roomy aviary with lots of cover, but a minimal shelter is needed as they are very hardy can withstand both extremes of temperature. Like many members of the genus Lophura, Swinhoe males can at times, become aggressive towards their keeper or other birds.

Visitor Submitted Notes: The following article was written and provided by Wayne Hsu.

The Swinhoe's Pheasant is a bird endemic to the undisturbed broadleaf forests of Taiwan below 2,500 meters of elevation. It was discovered in 1862 by Robert Swinhoe. Since then, it's numbers have fallen due to destruction of natural habitat, and was listed as endangered in 1966. The Swinhoe's Pheasant is a very shy bird, often feeding silently and runs off with the slightest disturbance. Because of this characteristic, very little is known about them. The males of the Swinhoe's Pheasant are brilliant blue with a white crest, back, and a pair of long white tail feathers. On the sides are reddish coloring and patches of green, and the legs are red. The hen and chicks are mottled brown throughout for camouflage when incubating. Their average size is slightly larger than the equally rare Mikado Pheasant, about 72 cm for males and 55 cm for females.
The habitat of the Swinhoe's Pheasant has been recorded as dense forest. However, they can also be seen feeding out in the open along forest trails or on forest edges. The range of the Swinhoe's Pheasant is from sea level up to 2,500 meters of the Central Mountain Range. They live on the floor of a forest with a dense canopy and sparse undergrowth. Occasionally, they may also be found in more mature secondary growth forest, bamboo forest, and mixed forests. Because most of Taiwan's broadleaf forest has been cleared in the lower elevations, Swinhoe's Pheasants are mainly found in forests above 1,000 meters elevation. Fragmentation of forests occurring in the upper elevations is a growing threat to populations of the Swinhoe's Pheasant.
The Swinhoe's Pheasant follow the same feeding route in the forest each day. Along forest trails, there are often visible paths through the vegetation where the pheasants walk in and out every day. These paths are not permanent, however, and the same bird might have several entrances in an area. The pheasants are most active early dawn and late afternoon, especially in the fog when visibility is low. From examination of stomach contents, the diet of Swinhoe's Pheasants include mostly grass seeds, flowers, mosses, fruits, and a lesser percentage of insects such as termites, moths, grasshoppers, and beetles. During the night, pheasants roost in trees, discovered through radio-tracking by researchers.
Where food sources are plentiful, Swinhoe's Pheasants may be seen feeding in groups. To keep their distance, they may peck at each other if another comes too close. Squirrels may also feed alongside the pheasants, but will also get pecked if they are too close. Outside breeding season, Swinhoe's Pheasants are usually seen alone. From April to September, the pheasants may appear in pairs, a hen with chicks, or a group of immature birds.
The nests of Swinhoe's Pheasants are so well concealed that it is almost impossible to come across unless followed through radio-tracking. The nests are built in highly secretive locations under a large shelter such as logs or rocks where it is safe from rain and predators. Sometimes the nest is built on a tree, where it is well hidden by vegetation.
The female lays from 3 to 6 eggs in a nest, and the eggs hatch in 25 to 28 days. In 2 to 3 days, the chicks are able to venture out of their nest on their own. The chicks have a furry appearance, and begin to develop feathers in 3 weeks. The young birds have a plumage very similar to the hens; only by the time winter arrives do the males start to develop the plumage of the adult.
There are not many sightings of a predator attacking a Swinhoe's Pheasants. There have been records of Crested Goshawks consuming dead pheasants. Various mammals and owls have been known to attack chicks, while snakes and mammals eat the eggs. Usually, an alarmed pheasant will escape either by running away or flying, often downhill. When a hen with chicks are alarmed, a hen calls a warning cry and the chicks hide in nearby vegetation. The hen leads the predator away, then returns and gathers the young together.
Recently, it appears as if the number of Swinhoe's Pheasants have increased due to protection. However, their isolated populations cause a concern for the genetic health of the species. Besides setting aside reserves and national parks for the pheasants, it is just as important to save the remaining tracts of forests in Taiwan to ensure the future survival of the Swinhoe's Pheasant.


Images

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Photo Credits
(l to r): 1-4, Roman Kmicikewycz; 5, Jan Harteman; 6-8, Bud & RoxAnn Riggs.


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