White eared-pheasant (Crossoptilon crossoptilon)

Synonyms: Phasianus crossoptilon
Spanish: Faisán Orejudo Blanco, Faisán Orejudo Tibetano
GenusCrossoptilon (1)
SizeLength: 86 – 96 cm (2)
Tail length: 46 – 58 cm (2)
Male weight: 2350 – 2750 g (2)
Female weight: 1400 – 2050 g (2)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

This striking pheasant is snowy white with a conspicuous velvety black crown, a dark bluish-black tail, and bare red facial skin and legs (4) (5) (6). Unlike other eared-pheasants (Crossoptilon spp.), this species has quite small ear tufts and the tail is shorter and less ornate (4). Although male and female eared-pheasants are virtually identical (a unique feature amongst pheasants) (6), white eared hens can be distinguished from cocks by their slightly smaller size, darker and browner plumage, and lack of spurs (2) (6). The five subspecies generally considered to exist mainly vary in the extent of grey on the plumage (4).

Subspecies: the Tibetan, or Drouynii, white eared-pheasant (C. c. drouynii) is found in east Tibet; Dolan’s eared-pheasant (C. c. dolani) in west-central China (south Qinghai); the Szechuan white eared-pheasant (C. c. crossoptilon) in west-central China (west Sichuan), southeast Tibet, and extreme northeast India; and the Yunnan white eared-pheasant (C. c. lichiangense) in south-central China (northwest Yunnan) (2) (6). Harman’s eared-pheasant (C. c. harmani), sometimes classed as a subspecies, sometimes as a distinct species, is known from southwest and south-central Tibet (China) and extreme north Arunachal Pradesh (India) (2) (4) (7).

Occurs in mountainous coniferous and mixed forests, plus subalpine birch and rhododendron scrub (8). Found at between 3,500 and 4,300 m above sea level during the breeding season, but down as low as 2,800 m in winter (2) (8).

Eared-pheasants are gregarious birds, typically living in flocks of ten to thirty or more for much of the year, separating into monogamous pairs in spring. The courtship display of the cock consists of much running around and calling, with wings lowered, tail raised up, scarlet face wattles extended and the neck rounded (6). Eggs of this species are thought to be laid between mid-April and June, and clutches of four and eleven eggs have been recorded in the wild (2) (9). In captivity, incubation lasts 24 days and is performed by the female alone (2).

Eared-pheasants feed on a range of seeds, fruits, leaves and shoots, but are mainly diggers, using their powerful beak to dig up roots, bulbs and insects (6).

Although this species is widespread, its range is highly fragmented and numbers are apparently declining due to deforestation and hunting for food (2). Fortunately, however, the high-altitude forests that this mountainous bird inhabits are not being lost at a particularly rapid rate (8).

There are recent records of the white eared-pheasant in several protected areas (8).

For more information on the white eared-pheasant see:

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World - New World Vultures To Guineafowl. Vol. 2. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)