Reeves's Pheasant

Syrmaticus reevesii

A large pheasant that can be found in parts of central and eastern China. It has also been introduced to parts of Europe and can be seen in France, the Czech Republic and less commonly in the UK.

Reeves's Pheasant

Length:

75cm to 210cm

Wingspan:

55cm to 90cm

Weight:

949g to 1.529kg

What does a Reeves's Pheasant look like?

Male birds are highly distinctive with their white head and black masks which join together at the back of the neck. Most of the body is a vibrant golden-chestnut colour and the breast is either black or chestnut. The back has contrasting and bold black scaling, and the tails are buff-orange with a black and white patternation. The tail is the longest of any other pheasant.

Females are much less striking overall but do have a distinctive black pattern on their heads. They have buff-brown faces with dark masks. Most of the body is a mixture of brown, chestnut and a buff colour with barring. The underparts are mostly lighter; however, this is variable. The tails of a female are considerably shorter than the males.

Both adults have grey legs and short, hooked greenish bills. The eyes are brown. Males also have short spurs on their feet, which females lack.

Juveniles are mostly the same as females but have lighter forenecks and whitish-streaking on their pale brown breasts. Young males are relatively quick to get the pattern on their tails.

Reeves's Pheasants are monotypic, but the plumage is highly variable between individuals.

A male Reeves's Pheasant

A male Reeves's Pheasant

How big is a Reeves's Pheasant?

The Reeves's Pheasant is large bird. Male birds are considerably larger than females and are an average of 210cm (82 inches) in length. The tail is one of the standout features and has been reported in older birds to reach extraordinary lengths of over 200cm. The average tail length is anywhere from 100 to 160cm (39 to 63 inches).

The tail of the male bird grows on average 30cm (12 inches) each year. This makes the tail of the Reeves's Pheasant, the longest of all pheasants.

The average length of a female is 150cm (59 inches) with an average tail length of between 33 and 45cm (13 and 18 inches).

The wingspan is between 55 and 90cm (21 to 35 inches). The reason for the great difference in range is that males usually have a considerably larger wingspan compared to females.

Male and female Reeves's Pheasants

Male and female Reeves's Pheasants

How much does a Reeves's Pheasant weigh?

The average weight for male birds is around 1500g (approx 53 ounces) and females around 950g (34 ounces).

Why is it called the Reeves's Pheasant?

The Reeves's Pheasant was named after the British naturalist John Reeves, who was responsible for introducing live specimens into Europe back in 1831.

As well as Reeves's Pheasant, he also has been commemorated for the Reeves's muntjac and four reptile species.

What is the scientific name of a Reeves's Pheasant?

The binomial name is Syrmaticus reevesii.

The first part (the genus) Syrmaticus is given to five species of long-tailed pheasants. Other than the Reeves's Pheasant, this includes:

  • Copper pheasant (S. soemmerringii)
  • Mikado pheasant (S. mikado)
  • Elliot's pheasant (S. ellioti)
  • Mrs. Hume's pheasant (S. humiae)
Portrait of a Reeves's Pheasant

Portrait of a Reeves's Pheasant

Did you know?

Historically these birds were illegally hunted for their tail feathers for use in Peking Opera costumes.

Are Reeves's Pheasants aggressive?

Reeves's Pheasants, unfortunately, do not have the best reputation. They can sometimes be aggressive towards humans, animals and other pheasants. This isn't the case with every bird, but they have more of a reputation than others.

Like other pheasants, the breeding season, in particular, is usually when males become more aggressive and is mostly towards other male pheasants. The aggression is triggered by hormones and pheromones and is used to protect their territory and partners.

How long do Reeves's Pheasants live for?

The average lifespan for a Reeves's Pheasant is around 9 years.

Are Reeves's Pheasants rare or endangered?

Reeves's Pheasants are listed as Vulnerable and are therefore endangered. In China, it's estimated that there are anywhere between 2,500 and 10,000 mature individuals left. Unfortunately, this number is continuing to see a steady decline which is why they are endangered.

The decline is thought to be down to a mixture of habitat loss, poaching and poisoning.

Populations were introduced into parts of Europe back in the 1800s, but not all were established successfully. Both the Czech Republic and parts of central and north-western France have relatively well-established populations but are still slowly declining.

Due to the decline and small worldwide population, seeing a Reeves's Pheasant in the wild is quite a rare thing.

Female Reeves's Pheasant

Female Reeves's Pheasant

What do Reeves's Pheasants eat?

The diet mainly consists of a mixture of seeds and fruit. They will also eat insects, snails, worms, buds and fresh shoots. This diet will also vary depending on their range.

Like other pheasants, they will forage on the ground with a mixture of scratching and digging to find food.

They will often feed in small groups of up to 10 or more closely related birds. In Europe, this is usually in unisexual groups and in China mix-sexed groups. This occurs more frequently during the winter and mainly with females and juveniles.

Do Reeves's Pheasants mate for life?

There is little known about the mating behaviour of Reeves's Pheasants, but it's speculated that males usually have more than one female partner, as they are frequently seen with two females, which makes them polygynous.

Where do Reeves's Pheasants nest?

Nests are shallow bowls that are lined with a mixture of leaves, pined needles and herbs. They are built on the ground in grass or shrubs in the undergrowth in forests. Usually, the construction of the nest is solely taken on by the female.

The long tail of a Reeves's Pheasant

The long tail of a Reeves's Pheasant

How many eggs does a Reeves's Pheasant lay?

A clutch of between 6 and 9 eggs is laid. Females will incubate the eggs and feed the chicks by themselves. Whilst the females are doing this, males will defend the territory.

What do Reeves's Pheasant eggs look like?

The eggs are usually a cream or olive colour.

What does a Reeves's Pheasant sound like?

Reeves's Pheasants have musical calls that are unlike any other game bird. The call sounds a lot more like one a songbird would make.

During the breeding season, male birds wing-whirr and make high-pitched chirping calls. These can often be very loud and can be heard from some distance.

The alarm and contact calls are also both a short series of chirping, sputtering and squeaking sounds.

Reeves's Pheasant Song

Stanislas Wroza, XC360690. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/360690.

What is the habitat of a Reeves's Pheasant?

In China, Reeves's Pheasants can be found in evergreen woodlands, areas with plenty of grass and bushes and even the odd steep slope. This is usually between 200 and 2600m.

Introduced birds to Europe can be found in lowland forests. Males can sometimes be seen on farmland as well.

Reeves's Pheasants roost in trees during the night and sometimes throughout the day when resting.

Reeves's Pheasant in the long grass

Reeves's Pheasant in the long grass

Where do Reeves's Pheasants live?

The Reeves's Pheasant is native to evergreen forests of central and eastern parts of China.

They have been introduced into the United Kingdom, France and the Czech Republic, where small breeding populations have been established. They have also been introduced into the United States, but for sport and ornamental purposes - in other words, you're not likely to find one in the wild in the US.

In the other countries listed above, these pheasants are also released into the wild on a small scale for shooting alongside common pheasants.

Do Reeves's Pheasants migrate?

Reeves's Pheasants are mainly considered to be sedentary and therefore don't migrate.

Can Reeves's Pheasants fly?

Yes, they are capable of flying and are, in fact, quite strong fliers. However, as the explosive flight utilises a lot of energy, they can only fly a couple of kilometres and generally prefer to run away.

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