Lady Amherst's pheasant
The Lady Amherst's pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) is one of the two species of ruffed pheasants in Australia. The other closely related pheasant is the Golden pheasant. These two pheasants can interbreed, producing a fertile hybrid. Generally this is discouraged in the aviary bird world. Unfortunately, this does create some uncertainty with the purity of both species of pheasants.
Ruffed pheasants refer to the cape, or ruff, that extends around the head and neck. The cape occurs on the male and is utilised in courtship displays.
The Lady Amherst’s pheasant was named after Sarah, Countess of Amherst by her husband William Pitt Amherst, the Governor General of India. Sara lived from 1752 to 1838.
This pheasant is endemic to China, Burma and Tibet and is listed as of ‘least concern’ on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. It naturally inhabits forested areas and bamboo thickets. It roosts in trees at night and will do the same in aviaries if given the opportunity.
These pheasants can be kept as pairs or trios. Some aviculturists keep the cock bird only due to the spectacular colouring of his plumage.
Lady Amherst’s pheasants are very hardy and can withstand very cold or hot conditions.
They are very tolerant of other aviary birds. Parrots, doves and finches can be kept in the same space.
The adults, particularly the males, do not fully colour until their second year. Breeding in the first year can be fairly ordinary. Second year birds are likely to be able to lay the maximum number of eggs and the males reach maximum fertility.
Up to 40 eggs are possible from a hen in the one season. If the eggs are left in the aviary, she may only lay 6 to 12 eggs in a clutch before sitting on them.
Incubation takes 23 days. A higher protein diet should be provided during the breeding season. The birds will benefit from the addition of green feed and fruit. They will become very tame if fed meal worms or crickets.
They are not particularly hard on plants in the aviary and a well planted aviary with shrubs for shelter is preferable for the birds.
Goldens x Amherst’s Golden hens and Amherst’s hens can look similar. Although Golden pheasants have yellow skin and Amherst’s have a blue/grey skin, usually visually obvious in the legs. Be mindful that Goldens, with no green feed in their diet, may have a tendency to demonstrate a skin similar to Amherst’s.
Pest and diseases
Generally these birds are considered tough, although they can be susceptible to poultry and aviary bird diseases. Consider worming your birds if they are kept in a mixed collection or in wet conditions, if for no other reason than to protect the other birds in your aviary.
Text by Doug Somerville, June 2016 Copyright author. Disclaimer: The information contained in this information sheet is based on knowledge and understanding at the time of writing (June 2016). However, because of advances in knowledge, users are reminded of the need to ensure that information upon which they rely is up to date and to check currency of the information.
Text by Doug Somerville and photography provided by John Urane.