The Mating Dance

Ardea Alba Drawing

A male great argus pheasant advertises his cleared dancing arena by calling out to females early in the morning.

A female accepts the invitation and ventures into the male's dancing ground. He circles around her, stomping his feet.

A male great argus pheasant advertises his cleared dancing arena by calling out to females early in the morning.

A female accepts the invitation and ventures into the male's dancing ground. He circles around her, stomping his feet.

food & feeding

The great argus pheasant slowly meanders and pecks at leaf litter on the ground and occasionally at the leaves on shrubs. Fallen fruits and ants top the menu, but the bird also eats other insects, as well as mollusks, leaves, nuts and seeds. The bird lifts its head after each peck to survey its surroundings for potential danger Females forage for food with their young, while the males embark on solitary searches.

A. Ants in the plants

A pheasant looks up to scan for predators before continuing to feed on ants and other insects.

A. Ants in the plants

A pheasant looks up to scan for predators before continuing to feed on ants and other insects.

behavior

Birds Pecking Its Food

The reclusive great argus pheasant is more likely to be heard than seen. It spends most of the daytime perched, and is usually most active at sunrise and sunset. The male call is a loud, prolonged, musical kwow-wow, which carries great distances in the heavy forest. Nocturnal calling is frequent and at its loudest between February and August, the breeding season. At this time, the birds become more active and males have vocal contests for display sites. Males clean their display site by throwing leaves with the beak, pecking at overhead vegetation and beating their wings to fan away light debris. Both sexes are extremely fast runners, but poor fliers; they rely on acute hearing to warn them of impending danger

A fancy display...

The show begins; the male curves his wings upward and around, forming a huge funnel as he vibrates his tail and plumage

conservation

Forest destruction has limited the Malaysian range of the great argus pheasant. Lowland forests now cover only about 15% of the peninsula. Borneo is in less danger; at least 40% of its land area is covered by lowland forests. Humans trap the birds at display sites that are advertised by the males' loud calls, and use the birds' feathers as ornaments. In addition, the great argus pheasant competes with the crested argus pheasant for its habitat, though it is not clear which species excludes the other. Currently, the great argus pheasant is raised in aviaries around the world.

A family matter

After mating, the female is on her own; unable to carry nesting material, she forms a simple nest in a tree hollow for her two eggs.

Bornean Peacock Pheasant

A fancy display...

The show begins; the male curves his wings upward and around, forming a huge funnel as he vibrates his tail and plumage

conservation

A family matter

After mating, the female is on her own; unable to carry nesting material, she forms a simple nest in a tree hollow for her two eggs.

OFILE Great Argus Pheasant

The great argus pheasant normally has a drab appearance — but the male displays elegant underwing plumage during courtship rituals.

Male

The male has a much longer tail than the female; he also has a series of iridescent ocelli (eyespots) on the inner webs of the wings.

Male

The male has a much longer tail than the female; he also has a series of iridescent ocelli (eyespots) on the inner webs of the wings.

Immature male

The reddish juvenile male resembles the female and does not reach full adult plumage until its third year. Each molt increases the number of ocelli as the wings and tail feathers grow.

Breeding Season

creature comparisons

Stout toes and strong claws enable the bird to walk up to 1,000 yards per day in search of food. The male uses its feet to make sounds audible up to 75' away during the ground-stomping breeding ritual.

Fine, shaftlike feathers are scattered over the blue skin of the head and neck.

The rufous-buff feathers of both sexes are boldly spotted with black, producing a beautiful patterned effect.

Immature male

The reddish juvenile male resembles the female and does not reach full adult plumage until its third year. Each molt increases the number of ocelli as the wings and tail feathers grow.

ViTAL STATiSTiCS

weight

Male 4.5-6 lbs.; female 3.53.75 lbs.

Length

Male up to 7'; female up to 2' (including tail)

Sexual Maturity

3 years

Breeding season

February-August

Number of Eggs

2-4

; Incubation £ period

24-26 days

; Fledging ,: period

Up to 40 days

4 Birth : Interval

More than 1 brood a year

Typical Diet

Ants, plants, leaves, nuts and seeds

■ Lifespan

Unknown

creature comparisons

Like the great argus pheasant, the Bornean peacock pheasant (Polyplectron schleiermacheri) inhabits lowland forests of Borneo, but it is the only peacock pheasant found in the region. At 17-20" long, it is much smaller than the great argus pheasant. The female of both species (shown at right) lacks the longer tails common in their male counterparts. But both sexes of the Bornean peacock pheasant have ocelli (eyespots) on their upperparts; ocelli are completel) absent in the female great argus. Great argus pheasant

RELATED SPECiES

• The great argus pheasant is the only species in the genus Argusianus, which joins 15 other genera in the family Phasianidae. The family includes quails, partridges, pheasants, spur fowl, francolins and peafowl. The bobwhite quail, Colinus virginia-nus, a native of North America, is named for the male's song, "bob-white." The painted quail, Excalfactoria chinensis, is only 6" long.

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