Palawan peacock-pheasant (Polyplectron napoleonis)

Male palawan peacock-pheasant displaying
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Palawan peacock-pheasant fact file

Palawan peacock-pheasant description

GenusPolyplectron (1)

The Palawan peacock-pheasant is notable for the male’s impressive crest and vibrant plumage, which is glossy black with a dazzling metallic green-blue lustre on the crest, crown, neck, mantle and wings (4) (5). The long tail is black, finely speckled with buff and adorned with two rows of large and conspicuous green-blue ocelli (eye-shaped spots). The face has a distinctive pattern of black and white, with bare red skin around the eyes (5). While males bear these lustrous colours and striking ocelli, which they flaunt in elaborate courtship displays to attract mates, females are rather drab in comparison (6). Their brown plumage, with scattered buff markings (2), helps camouflage and conceal the females while they incubate their eggs and brood their young (6).

Also known as
Napoleon’s peacock-pheasant.
Polyplectron emphanum.
Espolonero de Palawan, Faisán Real de Palaguán.
Male size: c. 50 cm (2)
Female size: c. 40 cm (2)
Male weight: c. 436 g (2)
Female weight: c. 322 g (2)

Palawan peacock-pheasant biology

Palawan peacock-pheasants can be found in small groups or pairs, but scientists disagree over whether they are monogamous or polygamous. Like other peacock-pheasants (Polyplectron spp.), males of this species perform an elaborate courtship ritual to entice females to mate. They first attract a female’s attention with ‘courtship feeding’, spreading their neck feathers and bobbing their head up and down with food in their beak, before dropping the food where the female can see it. If she takes the food, then the male will proceed with a spectacular plumage display in which he points his erected crest forwards and fans his raised tail to show off all the decorative eyespots, whilst emitting a long hissing sound and strutting around the female (8). No information about breeding biology exists from the wild, but in captivity clutches consist of two eggs, and are incubated for 18 to 20 days by the female (2). Although young are able to find their own food after a few days, the female continues to guard them for several weeks (8).

The diet in the wild is believed to comprise seeds, grains, nuts, fruit, leaves, roots, insects, worms and slugs (8).


Palawan peacock-pheasant range

Endemic to the island of Palawan in the Philippines, for which it gets its common name (4) (5).


Palawan peacock-pheasant habitat

Lives, feeds and nests on the floor of primary and secondary forest on flat and rolling terrain, up to around 800 metres above sea level (5) (7).


Palawan peacock-pheasant status

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

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Palawan peacock-pheasant threats

Palawan peacock-pheasant populations are undergoing a rapid decline as a result of habitat destruction, hunting and trade (5). Lowland forests on Palawan have been widely cleared, and although coastal forest remains relatively extensive in the south, illegal logging there is thought to continue (5) (9). Furthermore, logging and mining concessions have been granted for almost all remaining forest on the island (5). By the 1960s, direct exploitation of the Palawan peacock-pheasant was also a growing concern, with large numbers being hunted for food and trapped for live trade to zoos and aviculture enthusiasts, but exports were much reduced by the late 1980s. Nevertheless, the bird continues to be hunted for food and some trade (5) (9).


Palawan peacock-pheasant conservation

The entire island was officially made a game reserve in 1983, in which hunting became illegal, but hunting laws are difficult to enforce effectively. This pheasant also occurs in two protected areas on the island, El Nido Marine Reserve and St Paul's Subterranean River National Park (5). Recently, commercial logging activities on the island were suspended by presidential decree, but nearly all the forest land is still leased out to logging operations, and illegal logging evidently continues (9). In the mid-1990s, this striking bird featured on a bilingual environmental awareness poster in the “Only in the Philippines” series, which aimed to encourage people to take pride in and protect their endemic species (5). It is imperative that such public education campaigns are continued to make local people fully aware of the grave future this elegant and stunning bird faces if more isn’t done to protect it and its dwindling habitat.

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

Find out more

For more information on the Palawan peacock-pheasant see:

  • BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
  • 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.



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:


A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
In birds, the wings, shoulder feathers and back, when coloured differently from the rest of the body.
Mating with a single partner.
Mating with more than one partner in the same season.
Primary forest
Forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
Secondary forest
Forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.


  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2008)
  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 (May, 2006)
  4. Dedicated to the Aviculture and Conservation of the World’s Galliformes (August, 2006)
  5. BirdLife International (August, 2006)
  6. AGHAM: An Interactive Science Magazine (August, 2006)
  7. Bayanihan: Philippines Social and Environmental News (May, 2008)
  8. Phoenix Zoo (August, 2006)
  9. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

Image credit

Male palawan peacock-pheasant displaying  
Male palawan peacock-pheasant displaying

© Stan Osolinski /

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