Mountain peacock-pheasant (Polyplectron inopinatum)

Also known as: Malayan bronze-tailed pheasant, mirror pheasant, Rothschild's peacock-pheasant
Spanish: Espolonero de Rothschild, Faisán de Cola Ocelada Indómito
GenusPolyplectron (1)
SizeAverage male length: 65 cm (2)
Average female length: 46 cm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1), and listed on Appendix III of CITES (3).

The mountain peacock-pheasant has a dark-grey head and neck, black breast, and chestnut coloured mantle and wings, which are adorned with small bluish-green ocelli (eyelike spots of colour) (2) (4). Females are smaller than males, have smaller black ocelli, and a shorter, less graduated tail with almost no ocelli (2). The male territorial call is a series of one to four fairly loud, harsh clucks or squawks (2).

The mountain peacock-pheasant is currently found in central Peninsula Malaysia, although there is growing evidence of its presence in extreme southern Thailand (2).

Lower and upper montane evergreen forest from approximately 820 metres to 1,600 metres, although once found at 1,800 metres (2). Usually occupies steep areas or ridges with exposed corestones, some bamboo and climbing palms (2).

Little is known about the mountain peacock-pheasant, but the bird is generally presumed to be solitary in the wild, although possibly occurring in pairs or small groups during part of the year. Like most other pheasants, this bird is believed to be active during the day, with a relatively small home range (5). Mating is thought to occur either with multiple partners or with a series of successive partners. In captivity, it has been noted that the mountain peacock-pheasant can start to breed at less than one year old, although most pairs do not breed until two years old, and some at three. The male displays in a similar fashion to other Polyplectron species, walking around a shrub several times, emerging with head held high, rustling feathers, and hissing or squeaking (5). Two eggs are usually laid per clutch, and incubated for 19 to 21 days before they hatch (4).

In the wild, the mountain peacock-pheasant appears to eat mainly grubs, fruit and insects on the forest floor (5).

Fortunately, the limited habitat where this bird is found has not been under any great threat since it is not ideal for human settlement, agricultural use or traditional logging. There was a proposed road development linking the hill stations of Genting Highlands, Fraser’s Hill and Cameron Highlands, which threatened to destroy, degrade and fragment a substantial area of this species’ montane habitat, but this has since been cancelled (5).

The mountain peacock-pheasant occurs in at least three protected areas, Taman Negara, Krau Wildlife Reserve and the very small Fraser’s Hill Wildlife Sanctuary (2). The Malaysian Wildlife Department has also established an international conservation breeding programme with the World Pheasant Association to try to ensure the continued survival of this species (6). To aid this, an International Studbook was published in 1992 as a measure to conserve the captive gene pool for the future, and is jointly managed by the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks and the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo, New York (5). Captive-bred populations not only provide a buffer against total extinction, but also provide the potential for re-introductions into the wild. Indeed, the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks, aided by the World Pheasant Association, is currently using captive stock in a re-introduction project to bolster numbers in the wild (7), and a number of UK-bred birds have recently been returned to Malaysia to strengthen the mountain peacock-pheasant’s wild population in its native country (6). Such conservation efforts are positive steps towards saving and preserving this little-understood bird in its natural environment.

For further information on the mountain peacock-pheasant see:

Authenticated (17/12/2005) by Gary Robbins, Vice President of the World Pheasant Association, Co-chair of the EAZA Galliformes Taxon Advisory Group, and ESB keeper for the Malaysian peacock-pheasant, mountain peacock-pheasant and the Malaysian great argus.

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)