Reeves's Pheasant

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Scientific name: Syrmaticus reevesii

Other common names: Reeves' Pheasant; Reeves Pheasant; Bar-tailed Long-tailed Pheasant, White-crowned Long-tailed Pheasant

The basics:
The spectacular Reeves's Pheasant, a member of the Long-tailed Pheasant family, is endemic to the mountainous central and eastern forests of China. Unfortunately, the habitat in this populous nation is under a lot of pressure, and the disappearance of suitable forest means that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has identified the Reeves's as a “vulnerable” species that is declining rapidly. Like any pheasant, the bird is tasty, and it is also hunted for food in its native land. In the west, this species is kept by experts with plenty of room and experience handling grumpy male pheasants.

The adult male Reeves's Pheasant, with a tail that can reach 6 feet long, is a spectacular bird that will knock your socks off. The face is distinctively banded – white crown, black band with a white spot beneath the eye, white throat and neck, and finally a black collar where the neck joins the bright body. The female is a more modest golden brown. She has a brown crown and only a hint of a black band behind her eye, instead of a full black band over her face. If you're concerned about confusing her with her female cousins, check the throat. Hers will be yellowish or even golden, while Elliot's Pheasant will be dark and Mikado's Pheasant will be whitish.

Average weight:
950 - 1530 grams (33.5 - 54 oz.)

7 - 12 years

The Reeves's Pheasant has a reputation for being a hardy, adaptable bird – probably one reason, in conjunction with its beauty, that it became so popular. 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:
The Reeves's Pheasant is loved for its looks, not its personality. The bird has the potential to be very aggressive. 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. Heck, even the chicks have a reputation for bullying other pheasant chicks. Don't short-change these beautiful birds. To show them in the best light, they will need plenty of room, plenty of cover, a high number of females for each male, and probably plenty of screening (whether natural vegetation or otherwise) to keep them from noticing other birds.

There is no substitute for a huge aviary that accommodates the spectacular male Reeves's Pheasant and his ability to display with his extra-long tail. A good minimum size for the pen is 15 feet square but bigger would always be better. Make sure that the dust-bathing area is kept dry and completely free of mud, so that your showpiece male can maintain his beautiful tail and keep the feathers in top condition. There is no avoiding the fact that many a breeding adult male Syrmaticus pheasant can be an extremely aggressive bird. You may need to screen the bird from being able to see males in other pens, or he may spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to break through his pen to get at his imagined rivals. You should definitely plan on supplying multiple females to satisfy his demanding appetites, because he would probably chase a single bird to exhaustion. There should be plenty of thick vegetation to provide cover for the females and sufficient shade to duplicate the natural forest habitat, since these birds are not adapted to be out in the full sun. On the plus side, they are hardy to extremes of cold and heat, and the shelter can be a relatively simple one that protects from wind, damp, and predators.

In the wild, Reeves'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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