Elliot's Pheasant

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Scientific name: Syrmaticus ellioti

Other common names: Bar-backed Pheasant; Chinese Barred-backed Pheasant; White-necked Long-tailed Pheasant

The basics:
Elliot's Pheasant is known for both its beauty and its bad temper, making it a pheasant for the more advanced aviculturist willing to manage a potentially moody or hormonal bird in order to enjoy its fine feathers.

This splendid pheasant is endemic to southeast China, where it resides in foothill and mountain forests. Unfortunately, its habitat is disappearing, causing the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) to list Elliot's as a “near threatened” species.

The male Elliot's Pheasant possesses an eye-catching long tail of 16 feathers banded in chestnut. His white belly, which contrasts nicely with his scaled chestnut breast, guarantees that you cannot confuse him with another bird. The female is substantially duller, and sometimes she does get confused with other females of the genus. To avoid inadvertently hybridizing your birds, check the throat. An Elliot's Pheasant female has a dark throat. A Mikado's Pheasant female has a whitish throat. A Reeves's Pheasant female has a yellowish throat.

Average weight:
1000 - 1400 grams (2.2 - 3 obs.)

7 - 12 years

As long as you take precautions to avoid the male harming his mate, Elliot's Pheasant has a reputation for being a hardy, adaptable bird. Nonetheless, you will want a good avian veterinarian experienced with pheasants to advise you on the necessary vaccinations, preventive medications, and so on required to keep your birds in the best of health.

Behavior / temperament:
There is no sugar-coating the infamous breeding aggression of the male Elliot's Pheasant. A male with too few females can harm his partners with his persistence. A male who can see other male pheasants, even of other species, may harm himself trying to break out and attack those rivals. Some bad-tempered males have even attacked their human keepers. If you think of a beautiful diva who simply can't control her temper, you might have a good idea of the natural personality of some of these gorgeous birds. If you are easily intimidated by an aggressive bird or don't know how to handle one, the Elliot's Pheasant is not a good choice until you get more experience handling difficult pheasants.

Elliot's Pheasant demands a large aviary or pen that is at least 250 square feet, with a dry sandy area for dust-bathing and plenty of thick shrubs and other greenery to offer shade and cover. The males are extremely aggressive and demanding, and they will chase the females again and again. Some breeders deal with the issue by providing an extremely large aviary with multiple females and plenty of hiding places, to prevent the male from harassing one or two females to death. Some breeders trim some wing feathers on the male only, so that the females can more easily get away when he's in a bad mood. Others simply remove the male altogether, to his own pen, allowing him to spend only short periods of time with his mate. You want to be aware of the possibility that you might need two aviaries before you purchase this species.

In the wild, Elliot's Pheasants would forage for a rather omnivorous diet of grass, sprouts, and other vegetable matter, as well as whatever likely insects or bugs they could catch. The backbone of the captive diet is usually a high quality game bird crumble or pheasant pellet, supplemented with seeds and grains; sprouts, milky seeding heads of grasses and other greens; and the usual commercially available live foods like mealworms, waxworms, and crickets. Make sure they always have a source of clean water.

Written by Elaine Radford

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