Silver Pheasant

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Scientific name: Lophura nycthemera

Other common names: True Silver Pheasant (Lophura nycthemera nycthemera); Lewis' Silver Pheasant (L. n. lewisi)

The basics:
The large, showy Silver Pheasant has attracted admirers for centuries. Alas, as with other pheasants with a history that dates back to the early days of aviculture, the Silver Pheasant has been a victim of unknowing interbreeding of the various 15 currently accepted subspecies. Today, some of the natural subspecies are lost to aviculture, and a few are even endangered in the wild. Most specimens in the United States appear to be the nominate subspecies, or perhaps hybrids that contain mostly genetic material from the nominate subspecies, but if you wish to become a serious breeder of a pure line of these birds, there will be no substitute for working with other respected fanciers.

With up to 15 subspecies and any number of possible hybrids floating around, you will need to consult with an advanced fancier and an advanced reference – and probably both – if you need to pinpoint the exact identification of the birds you hold. Otherwise, at least in the United States, it may be safe to assume that you hold a bird that is not 100% pure down to the subspecies level, a mix sometimes referred to as the “American” Silver Pheasant. The generic Silver Pheasant male is a large, splendid black and white pheasant, and perhaps the lovely moire pattern of the black and white stippling in a certain light gives the impression of “silver.” The female is smaller and browner. Both male and females have red faces and red legs – a key field mark needed to distinguish them from a close relative, the Kalij Pheasant.

Average weight:
1.1 - 1.8 kilograms (2.5 - 4 lbs.)

5 - 10 years

The Silver 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:
For the most part, the beautiful Silver Pheasant is considered relatively trouble-free, and it has been suggested as a good beginner's pheasant for those who have the money and space to show it off properly. However, sometimes the male can become very aggressive and territorial, especially in the breeding season, even to the point of attacking his keeper. If they are tried in a mixed species aviary, you are going to need to be very watchful to be sure that the male is not attacking its companions or trying to drive them away from the food and water. They must never be housed with Kalij Pheasants, for they are known to hybridize with that species.

To show at their best, the Silver Pheasant requires a huge, well-planted aviary that provides cover, plenty of perches at different levels, a dust bathing and sunning spot, and a warm shelter to protect against wind, damp, and cold. They also need protection against predators. In days gone by, it wasn't uncommon to see Silver Pheasants taught to free-range, but you should consult with a local pheasant keeper to see if this practice is a wise one for your area. Hunters, healthy predator populations, West Nile disease, and any number of other factors may cause you to decide to house the birds in the aviary instead. As with many other male pheasants that make a fine showing, the male is possessive, territorial, and sometimes aggressive. To keep him from becoming a pest to his consort, many breeders will set up a pen or aviary with one male to two females. While Silver Pheasants have admittedly bred in smaller pens, to preserve the beautiful plumage and to avoid neurotic behaviors, offer at least 120 square feet per pair or trio. 200 square feet minimum is much better.

Like many other species with a long history in aviculture, Silver Pheasants are not particularly difficult to feed. In the wild, they 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


ornamental pheasants, beautiful bird


males, fight

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