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Edwards's Pheasant

Lophura edwardsi

Edwards's pheasant, known scientifically as Lophura edwardsi, is a striking bird from the family Phasianidae. It is a creature of considerable beauty, with males displaying a predominantly blue-black plumage with a lustrous sheen and a distinctive crest, while females are clothed in more subdued tones of chestnut-brown, lacking the male's crest. The species is further adorned with red legs and facial skin, adding a splash of color to its appearance. The bird's length ranges from 58 to 65 centimeters, a testament to its impressive stature.

Identification Tips

To identify Edwards's pheasant, look for the male's blue-black plumage and crest, and the female's drab brown coloration. The nominate form, L. e. edwardsi, is characterized by a white crest and upper tail, distinguishing it from the northern form, often referred to as the Vietnamese pheasant, which may exhibit a variable number of white rectrices.

Habitat

This pheasant is endemic to the seasonal tropical forests of central Vietnam, where it favors evergreen forests rich with palms and bamboo patches. The dense low vegetation provides excellent cover for these elusive birds.

Distribution

The Edwards's pheasant is found exclusively in central Vietnam, within the provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Thua Thien Hue.

Behaviour

The Edwards's pheasant is known for its secretive nature, often concealing itself within the undergrowth of its forest habitat. It is a non-migratory species, braving the winter months without the need to seek warmer climes.

Song & Calls

The male of the species produces a wing-whirring sound and emits a low guttural alarm call that can be transcribed as "uk uk uk uk uk," or sometimes a more abrupt "puk puk puk puk puk."

Breeding

Breeding season for Edwards's pheasant typically occurs between March and May. Males engage in a display of chest pushing, wing vibrating, and feather erecting to attract a mate. Females are ready to breed at two years of age, reaching peak fertility around ages 4 to 5. They lay clutches of 4 to 7 eggs, which are incubated for approximately 20 to 22 days.

Similar Species

The Vietnamese pheasant, usually considered a northern form of Edwards's pheasant, can be confused with the nominate form but can be differentiated by the number of white rectrices.

Diet and Feeding

While observations in the wild are rare, captive Edwards's pheasants at Denver Zoo are known to consume a diet of mealworms, chopped fruit, greens, and a specially formulated game bird diet.

Conservation status

Edwards's pheasant is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. The wild population is estimated to number between 50 and 249 individuals, primarily of the nominate form. The species has not been confirmed in the wild since 2000, with threats including deforestation, hunting, and historical use of defoliants during the Vietnam War. However, it is faring well in captivity, where it is the focus of ex situ conservation efforts.

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