Elliot’s pheasant (Syrmaticus ellioti)

Male Elliot's pheasant
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Elliot’s pheasant fact file

Elliot’s pheasant description

GenusSyrmaticus (1)

Elliot’s pheasant (Syrmaticus ellioti) is a boldly marked bird, with a long barred tail. Males are reddish-brown in colour with a whitish-grey hood and a black throat. The belly is white and there are white bars on the wing and shoulder (2). The lower part of the back and the tail are barred with grey and chestnut with black lines (4). Females are generally duller in colour than males, with more greyish-brown. They lack the shoulder and wing bars seen in males and have shorter tails with less obvious barring (2). Juveniles are duller than females and have white throats (4). In flight the wings of this species produce audible whirring sounds, and vocalisations include low clucks, chuckles and a shrill squeal (2).

Also known as
Chinese barred-backed pheasant.
Faisán de Elliot.
Female length: 50 cm (2)
Male length: 80 cm (2)

Elliot’s pheasant biology

Elliot’s pheasant is an omnivore, and its diet changes with the season. It feeds on plants, buds, seeds, fruits, stems and grains as well as insects and eggs (5).

The breeding system of this pheasant is termed ‘polygynous’, meaning that one male pairs with more than one female, in this species a male typically has two or three mates. The males take no part in nest construction, incubation or care of the chicks. Females lay their eggs between mid-March and late May, with 4 to 12 eggs per clutch, although average clutch sizes tend to be five to eight eggs (5).


Elliot’s pheasant range

Elliot's pheasant is endemic to southeast and southwest China, south of the Yangtze River (5) (6).


Elliot’s pheasant habitat

Found in a great range of subtropical forest types in the mountains of south China, typically in lower and mid-altitude forests at 200 to 1,900 metres (2) (5). The key habitats needed by Elliot's pheasant are broadleaf forests (evergreen and deciduous) and mixed coniferous and broadleaf forest (2). Breeding habitat requires a dense canopy cover of over 90 percent (2).


Elliot’s pheasant status

Elliot's pheasant is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed in Appendix I of CITES (2) (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Elliot’s pheasant threats

This species is undergoing a rapid and worrying decline. Reasons for this decline include habitat loss and degradation, disturbance by humans, hunting for food, and pollution (2). The range in which Elliot's pheasant occurs has a very dense human population, and demands for agricultural land and timber have resulted in the widespread clearance of forests (5).


Elliot’s pheasant conservation

International trade in this vulnerable species is tightly controlled by its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). It is also nationally-protected (First Class) in China (2). Elliot's pheasant occurs in or close to a number of protected areas at the present time. There are around 1,000 individuals in captive breeding establishments around the world, however, the most important conservation action must be habitat protection; if there is no original habitat remaining, captive breeding (which has the ultimate aim of carrying out reintroductions to the original range) is rendered redundant. Proposed conservation measures include the evaluation of current protected areas supporting this species, and their improvement or extension. In addition to this, the wide range of this pheasant occurring outside of reserves must also be protected by controlling logging and establishing logging-free zones. Research and education programmes have also been established (5).

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


Authenticated (18/05/2006) by Liang Wei, Associate Professor, Hainan Normal University.



A plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
An organism that feeds on both plants and animals.
A pattern of mating in which a male has more than one female partner.


  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2011)
  2. BirdLife International (March, 2004)
  3. CITES Appendices (May, 2008)
  4. Erritzoe, J. (1993) The birds of CITES and how to identify them. The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge.
  5. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
  6. Wei, L. (2006) Pers. comm.

Image credit

Male Elliot's pheasant  
Male Elliot's pheasant

© John Corder / World Pheasant Association

World Pheasant Association
Biology Field Station
Newcastle University
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE15 0HT
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1661 853397
Fax: +44 (0) 1661 853397


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