Siamese Fireback pheasant
The Siamese fire-back is a large pheasant, approximately 80 cm long and is notable for its long crest of purple-black feathers, which reaches up to 3.5 inches (9 cm) in length and becomes erect when the bird is excited. The male has a grey plumage with an extensive red facial skin, crimson legs and feet, ornamental black crest feathers, reddish brown iris and long curved blackish tail. The female is a brown bird with blackish wing and tail feathers. The male Siamese Fire-back is a magnificent bird and easily identified. They attain their adult plumage the first year.
The male Siamese fire-back’s facial wattles are bright red, the throat, head and face behind the wattles are black. The breast, neck and upper back is grey with very fine vermiculation.
The middle of the back is bright golden yellow (hence the name "fire-back"), the lower back is metallic blue with chestnut fringes. The tail is long and curved with metallic black, blue and green sheen. The wings are grey with black and white streaks; the belly and lower areas are black. The bill is yellow, legs and feet red.
The females are colourful compared to most species of pheasants, their unique markings making them more attractive than other pheasant hens. The Siamese Fireback hen has no crest, her facial wattles are smaller than the male's, but just as bright. The head, throat, chin and neck are greyish-brown; the upper back and upper breast are bright chestnut. The lower back, wings and tail are chestnut, vermiculated with white and black. The bill is dark grey and the legs and feet are red.
The Siamese fireback is a South East Asian endemic which is distributed to the lowlands and foothills up to 800 metres of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Viet Nam in south East Asia.
Their preferred habitat includes very dense evergreen, semi-evergreen and bamboo forest areas, secondary growth and scrub. This species is also designated as the national bird of Thailand. This species is suited to a large planted aviary with lots of shade.
The Siamese Fireback numbers have declined in Australian aviculture alarmingly and it is regrettably extremely rare.
Males are fertile in their third year; however, some males are said to have been able to produce in their second year. Males will attain adult plumage the first year, but will have smaller tails than mature birds. Males can grow fairly long spurs that the keeper will need to keep trimmed to prevent injuries to the hen when breeding.
Nest is a shallow scrape in the earth sparsely lined with the hen seeking dense vegetation to secret their nest site.
The female usually lays between four and eight buff white eggs and is the latest breeding species in Australia, with egg laying commencing in November in Australia. Eggs are incubated for 24 to 25 days. The chicks readily take green food and meal worms.
The Siamese Fire-back pheasant’s diet is composed of seeds vegetation and protein from insects, beetles small invertebrates. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat small insects, invertebrates, lizards etc. In captivity they can be maintained on grain based pelletised food and wet mashes. A range of greens should be included in their diet. Meal worms or fly larvae are consumed readily. Fresh corn is enjoyed but should be limited as they will over eat if afforded the opportunity. Fresh water should always be available for drinking and some cock birds are stimulated to display if exposed to a fine water mist.
Their housing needs to be appropriate to encourage breeding which involves significant shading. Siamese Fire-back pheasants will tame significantly if hand fed treats such as live meal worms and are an attractive species.
Ongoing habitat loss in its native range and hunting threatens the Siamese Fire-back.
In the wild, males are found in the company of two or three females or in small groups which are presumed to be family parties.
Licencing is not required.
Text and Photographs provided by John Urane.