Birds of China: Elliot's pheasant
By Zhu Yingming
The Elliot's pheasant is endemic to southeastern China, where the species is under first-class state protection.
The birds are almost only found in the mixed forests in the southern Yangtze areas, roaming coastal mountains at an altitude between 200 and 500 meters, some 1,000-1,500 meters away from the seashore.
Elliot's pheasant. /VCG Photo

Elliot's pheasant. /VCG Photo

The large and vigil birds live in small groups of less than ten.
They feed on seeds, leaves and berries on the ground, but one study has shown that the bird can jump up to peck at the flowers, fruits and tender leaves on high branches.
Elliot's pheasant. /VCG Photo

Elliot's pheasant. /VCG Photo

Elliot's pheasants are polygamous.
The female builds the nest, broods the eggs and looks for food after copulation. She usually lays about seven eggs at a time, and the hatching period lasts less than a month, contributing to a relatively higher reproduction rate.
The pheasants were first described in 1872 by Robert Swinhoe, under the name "Phasianus ellioti" to commemorate ornithologist Daniel Giraud Elliot, founder of the American Ornithologist Union.
Elliot's pheasant. /VCG Photo

Elliot's pheasant. /VCG Photo

They are classified as a "near threatened" species by the IUCN Red List after being victim of overhunting before the 1990s, when it was listed as a protected animal in China.
Hunters would mistake them for the ring-necked pheasant, due to their resemblance. The ring-necked pheasant has a commercial value in some circumstances as a captive-bred bird.
Elliot's pheasant (L) and ring-necked pheasant. /VCG Photo

Elliot's pheasant (L) and ring-necked pheasant. /VCG Photo

Banzhu Elliot's Pheasant Reserve was established in east China's Zhejiang Province, where 20 domesticated and captive-produced Elliot's pheasants were released in 2002.
The Guanshan National Nature Reserve in east China's Jiangxi Province is also a wildlife reserve that aims at protecting the Elliot's pheasant and other wild animals.
In 2016 and 2017, 74 captive-bred Elliot's pheasants were reintroduced to the Maoershan National Nature Reserve in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, south China.

Birds of China

Endemic species are indispensable for the biodiversity of the planet. Their habitat being restricted to a particular area, many of them have yet to be appreciated by the rest of the world. Starting from the precious birds that are endemic to China, this series takes you to the forest, to the wild, to the sea and the sky.

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(Cover image via VCG)
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