Bulwer’s pheasant (Lophura bulweri)

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Male Bulwer's pheasant displaying
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Bulwer’s pheasant fact file

Bulwer’s pheasant description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderGalliformes
FamilyPhasianidae
GenusLophura (1)

The male Bulwer’s pheasant is undoubtedly one of the most striking of all pheasants (3), notable for its voluminous, gleaming white tail and distinctive, brilliant blue facial skin and wattles, which are distended to spectacular effect during courtship (4). These ornamental features, together with the crimson-red legs, stand out in dramatic contrast to the glossy blue-black plumage of the body (5). This dark plumage has indistinct bluish spotting at the tips of upperpart feathers (5) and a lustrous purple sheen to the throat and upper breast (3) (4). Females are smaller and have a dark mottled rufous-brown plumage with fine black vermiculations, dull bluish facial skin and red legs (3) (5) (6).

Also known as
Bulwer’s wattled pheasant, Wattled pheasant, white-tailed wattled pheasant.
Synonyms
Lobiophasis bulweri.
Size
Male length: 77 – 80 cm (2)
Male tail length: 45 – 46 cm (2)
Female length: c. 55 cm (2)
Female tail length: 17.5 – 19 cm (2)
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Bulwer’s pheasant biology

With fruit forming an important component of the diet, Bulwer’s pheasant is thought to be nomadic, moving around according to the fruiting cycle of different trees, and even forming a curious association with wild pigs, in which groups follow the pigs to areas where fallen fruit is abundant (7). As the pigs root around the forest floor for food, they also unearth tubers and bulbs, as well as grubs, and the birds eat what is discarded (8). Insects appear to play an important role in the diet, particularly ants, but also termites and small crickets, as do worms and crayfish, as well as a variety of seeds (4) (7).

Observations of males and females with their young suggest that this pheasant may be monogamous. The breeding season appears to be long, and perhaps rather changeable, possibly being stimulated in part by fruiting events, and therefore at different periods from year to year (7). During courtship, males strut slowly about, inflating their blue facial wattles and raising and spreading their impressive tail (2) (6). Clutch size is between two and five eggs, which are incubated for 24 to 25 days in captivity (4). It appears to take at least three years for these pheasants to reach maturity (7).

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Bulwer’s pheasant range

Endemic to the island of Borneo, including the provinces of Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysia), Kalimantan (Indonesia), and Brunei (5).

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Bulwer’s pheasant habitat

Found in primary hill forest and lower montane forest, normally from around 300 metres up to at least 1,500 metres above sea level, but occasionally down to around 150 metres (4) (5). It is thought that this species may rely on lowland forest masting events (heavy fruiting), moving to lower ground when fruit is dropped, where feeding concentrations form, and later moving back up into the hills (5).

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Bulwer’s pheasant status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Bulwer’s pheasant threats

Extensive and ongoing habitat destruction, particularly of lowland forest, is leaving Bulwer’s pheasant with little room to survive (9). Although large stretches of suitable habitat still remain, the fragmentation of the forests through highways and clearings may be cutting off this nomadic species’ ability to move around and follow the fruiting cycle of different trees, which may also have a negative impact on breeding (5) (7). Forest loss, degradation and fragmentation are the result of large-scale commercial logging, mining, extensive forest fires, and widespread clearance for rubber and oil-palm plantations (7), with oil-palm being sold to the West to be used in everything from food products to cosmetics and toiletries (9). An additional problem is the disturbance of Bulwer’s pheasants by people searching the forest for gaharu, a fungus that infects some trees and creates a resinous wood prized in Asia and the Middle East and sold at a premium price (9). These threats are compounded by widespread hunting for food, and in some places its feathers are used as decorative brushes (7). Illegal trade is believed to occur in Sarawak as the bird can fetch a high price from overseas collectors (7). Meanwhile, this pheasant is not reproducing well in captivity (9).

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Bulwer’s pheasant conservation

Bulwer’s pheasant is protected by law in Kalimantan, Indonesia, and in Sarawak, Malaysia, and has recently been recorded in at least six protected areas (5). It has been argued that a vibrant zoo population of Bulwer's pheasants could help raise awareness of its conservation needs in Borneo, but the difficulty of captive breeding is a serious constraint (9).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on Bulwer’s pheasant see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Mast
Heavy fruiting, especially of beech but also of oak and other forest trees, the fruit/nuts especially being used as food for pigs.
Monogamous
Mating with a single partner.
Montane forest
Forest occurring in the montane zone, a zone of cool upland slopes below the tree line dominated by large evergreen trees.
Primary forest
Forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
Vermiculations
Wormlike; often used to describe fine, wavy lines of colour on bird feathers.
Wattle
Bare fleshy skin that hangs from the bill, throat or eye of birds.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Delacour, J. (1951) The Pheasants of the World. Country Life Ltd., London.
  3. gbwf.org: Dedicated to the Aviculture and Conservation of the World’s Galliformes (August, 2006)
    http://www.gbwf.org/pheasants/bulwers.html
  4. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World - New World Vultures To Guineafowl. Vol. 2. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  5. BirdLife International (August, 2006)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=261&m=0
  6. Forest Department of Sarawak (August, 2006)
    http://www.forestry.sarawak.gov.my/forweb/wildlife/mgmt/tpa/bulphea.htm
  7. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
  8. Pulse of the Planet: Bulwer's Pheasant: King of the Birds (August, 2006)
    http://www.pulseplanet.com/archive/Jan03/2835.html
  9. National Geographic News: Vanishing Borneo Pheasants Look Great but Won't Mate (August, 2006)
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/04/0406_050406_borneo_2.html
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Image credit

Male Bulwer's pheasant displaying  
Male Bulwer's pheasant displaying

© Kenneth W. Fink / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

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