Discovered as recently as 1964, the Vietnamese pheasant (Lophura hatinhensis) is also known as Vo Quy's pheasant after the Vietnamese zoologist Vo Quy who, alongside Do Ngoc Quang, described this small pheasant in 1965 (4) (5).
The male Vietnamese pheasant is a stunning bird that has shiny black plumage with dark blue tones and metallic blue-edged feathers on the body, as well as metallic green fringes to the upper wing. Standing out in contrast to this rich, dark plumage are the white, elongated central tail feathers and the short, shaggy white crest. The facial skin and legs are also contrastingly coloured, usually being a striking red, and the irises are reddish-brown (3).
The female Vietnamese pheasant is comparatively drabber in appearance than the male, with a rather plain, greyish-brown plumage. However, the wings have a warmer tinge and the tail is blackish, with some of the longest central tail feathers being a slightly warm, dark brown that turn white with age. The female also possesses the same red facial skin and legs as the male (2) (3). Juvenile Vietnamese pheasants are brown and look very similar to the adult female (3). The chicks are yellow to brown, with downy feathers (3).
The male Vietnamese pheasant is very similar in appearance to the male Edward’s pheasant (Lophura edwardsi). Some scientists believe it to be a subspecies of Edwards’s pheasant, as the only physical differences are the four white, rather than blue, central tail feathers and the slightly longer crest in the Vietnamese pheasant. The females are virtually indistinguishable (2) (3).
The Vietnamese pheasant’s call is a low, throaty ‘uk uk uk uk uk’, used to warn other birds (2).
- Also known as
- Vietnam fireback, Vo Quy's pheasant.
- Length: 58 - 65 cm (2)
- 0.8 - 1 kg (3)
Vietnamese pheasant biology
Owing to the rather secretive nature of this bird, only a relatively small amount of research has been done into the biology of the Vietnamese pheasant in the wild. It is known, however, that the Vietnamese pheasant will eat grain, seeds, plants and insects (3).
There is almost no information about the breeding habits of wild Vietnamese pheasants, but mating and nesting behaviour have been observed in captivity. The breeding season begins at the end of February and continues through to April. The female is capable of producing fertile offspring from as young as two years (3).
The male displays to the female by raising his crest, ruffling up his back feathers and whirring his wings very quickly. When a female notices this display, they mate and then the female scrapes a nest in the ground, in to which between five and seven eggs are laid in late March. The eggs are incubated for between 21 and 22 days (3).
Vietnamese pheasant range
The Vietnamese pheasant is endemic to three provinces in central Vietnam: Ha Tinh, Quang Binhand Thừa Thiên-Huế. It primarily occurs in and around the Ke Go Nature Reserve. The total range of this pheasant is very small, estimated at just 2, 900 square kilometres and, is severely fragmented (6).
Vietnamese pheasant habitat
A frequent inhabitant of primary and secondary closed-canopy, broadleaved evergreen forest, the Vietnamese pheasant has also been observed in areas of forest where selective logging has created numerous small clearings, causing the understorey to become dominated by saplings and sporadic small palms (6) (7) (8). The Vietnamese pheasant is well distributed in lowlands and hills from sea level to approximately 300 metres, although records show that it does also occupy low ridge-tops and adjacent steep slopes (7) (8).
Vietnamese pheasant status
The Vietnamese pheasant is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List(1).
Vietnamese pheasant threats
The small population of the Vietnamese pheasant was estimated to be under 2,499 mature individuals in 1995 (6). This is decreasing further due to destruction of the pheasant’s specialised lowland forest habitat and high levels of hunting (6).
The Vietnamese pheasant is on the verge of becoming classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List (9) (6). Its numbers are further threatened by the extensive commercial (and sometimes illegal) logging of coastal lowland forests that causes extensive damage to the pheasant’s natural habitat (8). An oil extracted from the wood pulp of Cinnamomum parthenoxylon is highly valued, and so sites with this tree species, where the Vietnamese pheasant also occurs, are heavily deforested (7) (8).
Deforestation is also practised for the creation of land suitable for wet-rice cultivation, which is an important source of income to the growing human population in the local villages. However, as rice production is seasonal, locals will often turn to trading timber, palm leaves and rattans for additional income, furthering disturbances to the habitat of the Vietnamese pheasant (6).
The pressure of hunting is also a significant threat to the Vietnamese pheasant (8). The Vietnamese pheasant is under particular threat since the opening of Vietnam's economy created a large foreign demand for wild meat, including this endangered bird (6). The use of non-specific hunting methods such as trapping and snaring poses a great threat to terrestrial birds such as the Vietnamese pheasant (6) (8).
Vietnamese pheasant conservation
The successful conservation of the Vietnamese pheasant will depend on its effective protection, achievable through reserves. Within these reserves all forest clearance, fragrant oil production, rattan and palm leaf collection should be prohibited. Surveys between 1988 and 1994 contributed to the drawing up of a management plan for the Ke Go Nature Reserve, which was published in 1996. Since this management plan came into effect, timber extraction has now ceased within the reserve, which is considered to be a vitally important site for the long-term conservation of many East Asian fowl (6).
Since conservation efforts depend heavily on reserves, during 2000 the BirdLife International Vietnam Programme and Forest Inventory and Planning Institute assessed the feasibility of establishing a nature reserve in the Net River watershed and the reserve was later established (6).
In addition to this, a captive population of Vietnamese pheasants has been established at Hanoi Zoo, which has steadily increased in number as a result of a captive breeding programme (6). Further surveys have also been recommended to asses the habitat requirements and conservation status of this threatened pheasant species (9).
Find out more
Find out more about the Vietnamese pheasant and other pheasant species:
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- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Evergreen forest
- Forest consisting mainly of evergreen trees, which retain leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous trees, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
- To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- 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.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (August, 2011)
Robson, C. (2005) Birds of South-East Asia. New Holland Publishers, London.
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust - Vietnamese pheasant(August, 2011)
Sibley, C.G. and Monroe, B.L. (1990) Distribution andTaxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale University Press, Connecticut.
Sibley, C.G. and Monroe, B.L. (1993) A Supplement to Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale University Press, Connecticut.
Birdlife International (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. Cambridge: BirdLife International.
Eames, J.C., Lambert, F.R. and Nguyen C. (1994) A survey of the Annamese lowlands, Vietnam, and its implications for the conservation of Vietnamese and Imperial pheasants Lophura hatinhensis and Lophura imperialis. Bird Conservation International, 4: 343-382.
Lambert, F.R., Eames, J.C. and Nguyen, C. (1994) Surveys for Endemic Pheasants in the Annamese Lowlands of Vietnam, June–July, 1994: Status and Conservation Recommendations for Vietnamese Pheasant Lophura hatinhensis and Imperial Pheasant L. imperialis. IUCN Species Survival Commission, Switzerland.
Birdlife International (August, 2011)