THE NEPAL KALIJ PHEASANT
The Nepal kalij pheasant (Lophura leucomelanos ) is a pheasant which is found from the Himalayas of Nepal thru to western Thailand. The kalij pheasant is the nominate species from Nepal.
Australian birds are reported to be descended from a single shipment and have due to their variability been categorised as Lineated and normal species.
Cock birds are quite variable in colour but are predominately black with blue green glossy plumage. The cock’s lower back and rump feathers are distinctly white scalloped. The breast is heavily streaked with grey/white feathers
Hen birds are mottled brown and the individual feathers have pale borders giving a scalloped or scaly appearance. The hen’s central tail feathers are brown with the remainder being black. Both sexes have scarlet red bare faces with bone coloured beaks and greyish legs.
Both sexes display crests with the cocks being blue black and more pronounced than the hens which is brown and sparse. Males have a total length of approx. 70 cm and females approx. 55 cm Height is approx. 45 cm
The Nepal Kalij pheasant is related to the Siamese Fire-back pheasant, Swinhoe’s pheasant and the Silver pheasant. The Nepal Kalij is known to hybridise with the Silver pheasant. Silver pheasant
STATUS IN AUSTRALIA
Nepal Kalij pheasant numbers have declined in Australia for a number of reasons and the risk of extinction in Australian collections exists if efforts are not made to secure their future.
Captive birds can be effectively housed in enclosures as small 6 m2 floor area provided sufficient cover is provided to accommodate their shy nature and refuge is provided in the form of natural brush as required. Nepal Kalij pheasants are generally secretive by nature, however, individual birds display significant variance in their temperament. Some birds are quite tame in the presence of humans while others become stressed and seek immediate cover. Birds should not feel pressured by close human attention if they are unable to seek refuge where they feel secure. Both male and female Nepals demonstrate excellent camouflage skills considering their colour variance and demonstrate a more relaxed demeanour when provided some cover within their housing.
Cock birds become less secretive at the onset of the breeding season which generally commences in September and may continue thru to early January. During the breeding season, cocks perch in elevated locations, elevating their crest and wing whirring which is part of the ritual courtship display. This display characteristic is common across all of the Lophura pheasant species. Cock birds display confidently and are less intimidated during the courtship period. They may become openly aggressive toward cock birds in adjoining cages irrespective of species. I have not experienced cock bird aggression directed at me, however hens are fearless in defence of their young and will launch an attack if they think their chicks are threatened.
Nepals are reliable parents and will raise young successfully given appropriate and suitable nest locations screened by cover. The hens will use enclosed nest boxes but often create a roughly lined shallow nest scrape secreted by natural brush in earthen floored aviaries. The normal clutch is 7 to 10 off white or cream eggs which may be laid over an extended duration. A laying pause of 4 to 5 days may occur mid clutch. Daily removal of eggs for incubation may result in multiple clutches which may involve indiscriminate depositing of eggs rather than clutch positioning in a nest. Occasionally eggs may be laid from a roost location when eggs are gathered. I have experienced spare unattended hens laying in excess of 30 eggs in the season.
To ensure breeding success and to increase their numbers, remove the first clutch for artificial incubation and remove the first six eggs of the second clutch eggs which are replaced with more common pheasant species eggs. This action allows the hen to raise mostly fostered chicks and some of her own chicks.
Presentation of drinking water in deep containers presents a drowning threat to young pheasant poults.
Nepal Pheasants are readily maintained with pelletised poultry or grain based mash with occasional greens. Micro pellets are convenient and ensure the birds obtain a balanced diet as pheasants can when fed grain based mash become very selective seeking preferred grains and wasting unwanted content. They will opportunistically take insects, spiders, slaters and other live food and readily consume meal worms. Clean water in a shaded location should always be available, particularly during hot weather.
AVAILABILITY AND STATUS
The long term status of Kalij pheasants in Australia is not secure and I appeal fanciers to obtain and maintain a pair of unrelated birds in their collection. It is hoped fanciers ensure viable breeding populations of Kalij Nepal pheasants are maintained in the future. In the absence of that action, the species is destined to follow the path of Siamese Fireback pheasants which are regrettably predicted to become extinct in Australian collections.
If you would like to find some Australian breeders of Kalij Nepal Pheasants, click below:
Nepal Kalij pheasants are low maintenance birds which display individual characteristics. Their behavior traits are appealing to observe and the effort to gain their confidence is rewarding. Kalij Nepal pheasants are vocally subdued and are unlikely to cause disturbance to adjacent neighbors.
The author recently bred a lightly pied cock Kalij pheasant.
Urane, J. (2018).
Text and Photographs provided by John Urane.