Edwards’s pheasant (Lophura edwardsi)

Synonyms: Gennaeus edwardsi, Hierophasis edwardsi
Spanish: Faisán de Edwards
GenusLophura (1)
SizeLength: 58 - 65 cm (2)
Male tail length: 24 - 26 cm (2)
Female tail length: 20 - 22 cm (2)

Edwards's pheasant is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

Until its remarkable rediscovery in 1996, Edwards’s pheasant (Lophura edwardsi) was thought to be extinct in the wild (4) (5). Males of this small pheasant have a stunning glossy black plumage with shiny blue lustre, and metallic-green fringes to the upper wing (2). Standing out in contrast to this rich, dark plumage is a short, craggy white crest, and conspicuous red legs and facial skin (4) (6). Hens lack the cock’s crest and are much duller in colour, being uniformly greyish-brown with warmer tinged wings and a blackish tail, but share the same red legs and facial skin (4) (6). The Vietnamese pheasant (Lophura hatinhensis) is very similar to Edwards’s pheasant and is believed by some scientists to be a subspecies, but has four white central tail feathers instead of blue and a slightly longer white crest (6). The female L. hatinhensis, however, is nearly identical to the L. edwardsi hen, though perhaps a little darker. DNA studies are ongoing to determine if the L. hatinhensis is indeed a subspecies or a true species (4).

Edwards's pheasant is endemic to three provinces in central Vietnam, on the eastern side of the Annamite Mountains (7).

This lowland species inhabits level or gently sloping terrain covered by moist secondary evergreen forest with closed canopy and ample undergrowth of palms and bamboo (2) (8). Recent records have also come from lowland areas which have been selectively logged (6).

This secretive bird has rarely been observed in the wild, and little has therefore been recorded on its biology and ecology, including details of its diet (2) (5) (7). Mating and nesting behaviour have not been observed in the wild, only in captivity. Here, males display to females by erecting their crest, fluffing up the feathers on their back and rapidly whirring their wings (5). Eggs tend to be laid between March and May (7), typically in clutches of four to seven, and are incubated for between 21 to 22 days (2). As a general rule, individuals breed only after they are two years old (7).

Widespread and relentless destruction of Edwards’s pheasant’s habitat has left this species teetering on the brink of extinction, its perilous position exacerbated by hunting pressure (6). Vietnam’s lowland primary forest has now almost been completely stripped away as a result of herbicide spraying during the Vietnam War, and more recently by commercial logging and clearance for agriculture (5) (6). The last remaining forests known to support this pheasant are becoming progressively degraded by wood-cutters (6), and are vulnerable to commercial logging, firewood collection, charcoal production and the continued clearance of land for cultivation (7). It is thought that the completion of the Ho Chi Minh National Highway, which bisects the three provinces in which the species is known to occur, will only serve to increase the levels of disturbance. Hunting for food poses an additional threat, and this pheasant is likely to be affected by indiscriminate snaring (6).

The areas in which there are recent records for Edwards’s pheasant have been incorporated into two recently established nature reserves, Phong Dien and Dakrong, which are likely to be the last refuges for the species (6) (9). Bach Ma National Park lies within the historical range of this species, and a poster campaign to obtain local information was conducted there in 1996 and 1997, but as yet there have been no confirmed records from this park. In December 2003, the captive population numbered 1033 individuals (6). A studbook was first developed in the 1960s, and abandoned in the 1970s owing to lack of resources, but efforts were renewed in the 1990s (7), and an international studbook now helps coordinate breeding to ensure that the captive population stays genetically healthy (5). Although there have been problems with inbreeding and hybridisation in captivity, screening is thankfully helping eliminate hybrids from much of the captive stock (6). Having long been thought extinct (5), Edwards’s pheasant now clings to a precarious existence, and it is imperative that the rampant deforestation is stopped, and conservation efforts kept up, if this rare pheasant is to be saved from the very real possibility of extinction it now faces (6).

For more information on Edwards’s pheasant see:

Authenticated (25/10/10) by Le Trong Trai, BirdLife International Vietnam Programme.

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2012)
  2. 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.
  3. CITES (June, 2006)
  4. gbwf.org: Dedicated to the Aviculture and Conservation of the World’s Galliformes (August, 2006)
  5. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (August, 2006)
  6. BirdLife International (August, 2006)
  7. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
  8. Zoological Museum of the University of Amsterdam (ZMA) (August, 2006)
  9. The Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation: Understanding the impacts of hunting on Edwards's Pheasant in Phong Dien Nature Reserve, Vietnam (August, 2006)