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The Reeve’s Pheasant (Syrmaticus reevesii)

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The Reeve’s Pheasant is a beautiful large pheasant which is endemic to China. Although it may not boast the blues and greens we may see in other pheasants, it still has to be one of the most eyecatching and beautiful pheasants around today.

They occur naturally in the evergreen forests of central China and northern China. This species is becoming increasingly rare in its natural habitat. They inhabit forests in mountainous regions at altitudes of 300-1800 meters above sea level. They are particularly territorial and will drive out other species of pheasants from their territory.

The male birds have very bright plumage that is scaled with golden white and red plumage. They have grey legs, brown irises and red skin around their eyes. Their head is white with a black narrow band across the eyes. The males have an extremely long silvery white tail that is barred with chestnut brown. Their tails are so long that this spectacular pheasant was mentioned in the Guinness World Records in 2008 for having the longest natural tail feather of any bird species; a record which was formerly held by the Crested Argus Pheasant. It can measure up to 2.4 meters long! It is said the male’s tail grows a foot for ever year that they are alive. Females are a brown bird with a blackish crown, a beige face and grey brown barred tail feathers. Chicks are a golden ball of fuzz with an orange hue. They have a dark eye streak and other dark markings. One of the cutest pheasant chicks in my opinion!


Housing

Reeves Pheasants are generally hardy and can be housed in relatively simple enclosures. An aviary with a width of 2 meters is the minimum, anysmaller and the male’s tail will get damaged and worn down as it constantly brushes the sides of the aviary. Minimum recommended floor area per pair is 10 square meters.

Reeve’s Pheasants like to perch at night, and will often perch out in the open if given the chance. Place perches at least 1.2 meters away from the side of the aviary to avoid tail damage while roosting. Males can be housed with up to 4 females, and this species has been housed successfully with large parrots, pigeons and quails. Flight restriction can be used on Reeve’s Pheasants, and if you do this make sure to lower their roosting perches to avoid injury to these heavy birds.

A Reeves pheasant, Syrmaticus reevesii, from the Gladys Porter Zoo.

A Reeves pheasant, Syrmaticus reevesii, from the Gladys Porter Zoo.

Diet
Reeve’s Pheasants can be fed a diet of poultry or pheasant pellets, poultry mash or mixed grains. Green feed should be offered at least once weekly.Adults will happily accept animal protein such as mealworms. Live food such as mealworms also can play an important role in encouraging young chicks to feed.

Breeding
Breeding is best done in pairs or trios, which will result in good fertility either way. Reeve’s are first year birds, meaning that the female will lay eggs the spring after she is hatched. The male is fully fertile the first year. They generally start laying eggs in spring and will lay every second day until they lay approximately 8 – 20 eggs in a clutch, with the female laying 2 – 3 clutches a year. The eggs are small, round and olive tan, and are relatively small for the size of these birds. Captive birds are fairly reliable in building their own nests in an undercover area. This can be provided by a piece of corrugated iron being placed in once of the corners to provide a little hide. This will allow the female to partly hide the nest and reduce the likelihood of the male eating the eggs, which has been known to be a problem with this species of pheasant.

Incubation
If you wish to leave the eggs with the female they will generally incubate the eggs themselves for 24-25 days. Males vary in their response to the chicks. Some will assist with rearing the chicks while others may kill the chicks as they hatch, so keep this in mind. Parent raised chicks are usually independent at 6 weeks of age. Eggs are collected twice a day and marked with the date and breeding pen number and set daily. If you choose to incubate the eggs, they are then set in an incubator with an automatic turning grid. Temperature is maintained at 37°C, humidity-wet bulb 84 with humidity adjusted periodically depending on development of the air space shown by candling. Incubation for Reeves is 24 days. After the chick hatches, it stays in the hatcher for a minimumof 8 hours.

Chicks
Chicks are best started in a brooder pen. After a few days they are separated into baby pens for about four days to a week. They are then transferred to a larger pen for next 7-9 weeks. Be careful at this age not to mix them with other pheasant species as they will grab the toes or forehead feathers of the other chicks and flip them around the pen. They stay with this grouping until they go outside. Brooding pens should have wire bottoms with a heat lamp at one end and feed & water at the other end. The heat lamp can be attached to a dimmer switch so that you can turn down the amount of heat as the chicks get older until it is turned off completely. Reeves chicks are often moved off of the heat quicker than the other species of pheasants.

After they are off the heat for a few weeks, they are moved outside to the pheasant house which has outside grassy pens and a heated inside house part where they are blocked in for the night. After they are toughened up, they are moved to an outside chick pen.

Chicks are quite easy to raise with their own kind. You can mix both sexes, but once they are near maturity, the more dominant males tend to harass and eventually kill the less dominant males. At this point it is wise to separate them into one male per pen with either one or multiple females.

Behavior
They are generally calm birds. Males can be either quiet or aggressive. Aggressive males will attack and stalk you when you enter the pen and can be quite dangerous with their large spurs. They make a hard to describe continuous chirping noise. It is similar to a turkey gobble, but closer to a high pitched chirp. They are relatively easy to tame and are friendly birds that come running when you have treats. Overall I think that they are a great pheasant to work with that can be very rewarding. They will live up to 8 – 13 years of age and are a great addition to any large walk-in aviary or pen.

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