Swinhoe's Pheasant

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Scientific name: Lophura swinhoii

Other common names: Formosan Pheasant; Blue Pheasant; Swinhoe Pheasant

The basics:
Like some other birds endemic to the mountain forests of central Taiwan, the eye-catching Swinhoe's Pheasant has been rated as a “near threatened” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (ICUN), because it likely faces a challenging future outside the confines of protected areas like Yushan National Park. In days gone by, the bird was hunted for food. Nowadays, it is recognized as a symbol of Taiwan, and the hunting has mostly stopped. However, the high human population means that its forests are still vulnerable to logging and land clearing.

Like some other Lophura pheasants, Swinhoe's has become popular in aviculture because it offers a winning combination of beauty, relatively easy care, and hardiness. According to According to Gamebirds and Waterfowl, "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 and can withstand both extremes of temperature.” As with any pheasant, the males can become aggressive during breeding season, but they are generally a rewarding starter species.

In the adult male Swinhoe's Pheasant, the color theme is red, white, and a deep, glossy blue that appears patriotic to many nations of the world, including the United States and France, as well as to Taiwan. The body is mostly a deep blue-black, nicely contrasting with the snow-white upper back, long white trailing tail feathers, and short white crest. The chestnut red shoulders, red face and wattles, and red legs complete the picture. The females are patterned brown birds, with the breast and underparts richly marked with buffy V-shaped scales. Older books refer to a cinnamon mutation, but it may have died out some decades ago. In the case of this species, it would be hard to imagine any mutation that could improve on the beauty of the natural form.

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

5 - 10 years

The Swinhoe'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:
For the most part, the beautiful Swinhoe's 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. It stands to reason that they shouldn't be housed with Silver, Kalij, or other Lophura pheasants, because they don't know better than to hybridize with their cousins. But they probably shouldn't be housed with any other pheasants whatsoever, because they have also hybridized with a large number of species outside their own genus, ranging from such diverse birds as Lady Amherst's to Reeves's Pheasants.

To show at their best, the Swinhoe's Pheasant requires a large, 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. 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 Swinhoe's Pheasants have a good reputation for being free breeders, and they have admittedly bred in smaller pens, to preserve the beautiful plumage and to avoid neurotic behaviors, offer at least 150 square feet per pair or trio. 200 square feet might be better.

Swinhoe's 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; chopped fruits like apples and grapes; 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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