Bird O'clock

Discovering the Majestic Brown Eared-Pheasant: Plumage Vocalizations and Conservation

The Brown Eared-Pheasant, scientifically known as Crossoptilon mantchuricum, is a versatile bird species popular among bird watchers and ornithologists alike. Found mainly in the mountains of central and southwestern China, this stunning bird is known for its distinct ear feathers and striking plumage.

In this article, we will explore the different aspects of this remarkable bird species, from its identification to its molts. So, let us delve into the world of Brown Eared-Pheasant and learn more about this majestic bird.


The Brown Eared-Pheasant is a large bird, with a body length of about 73cm and a wingspan of 90-100cm. It has a distinctive appearance, thanks to its long tail, short beak, and the feathers on its head and ears.

The feathers on the sides of its head are elongated and have a tuft-like appearance, while the ear feathers take the form of ear tufts, which gives the bird its name. Field


In the field, the Brown Eared-Pheasant can be identified by its large size, long tail, and ear tufts.

This bird species has a dark brown upper body, a white belly, and a chestnut-colored throat with white speckles. Its legs and feet are yellow, and it has red skin around its eyes.

Similar Species

The Brown Eared-Pheasant has similar-looking species such as Tibetan Eared-Pheasant and Black Eared-Pheasant. However, the Tibetan Eared-Pheasant has a greyish throat and crimson-colored skin around its eyes.

On the other hand, the Black Eared-Pheasant has a blackish crown and the skin around its eyes is blue.


The Brown Eared-Pheasant has two distinct plumages: the breeding and non-breeding plumages. The breeding plumage appears in the spring, while the non-breeding plumage appears in the winter.

Breeding Plumage

During the breeding season, the male Brown Eared-Pheasant’s plumage is more striking than that of the female. The male has a shiny black crown with white-tipped ear feathers, an iridescent green back, and a white belly.

The chestnut coloration on the throat becomes more prominent, and there is a white spotting on the wings. The female has a similar, but less striking plumage.

Non-breeding Plumage

During the non-breeding season, the Brown Eared-Pheasant’s plumage is more subdued, with less colorful markings. The white belly and chestnut throat coloration are still present, but the rest of the plumage takes on a duller brown color.


The Brown Eared-Pheasant undergoes an annual complete molt, where all its feathers are replaced. This happens after the breeding season, usually in June or July.

During the molt, the bird’s wings and tail feathers will become difficult to see, and it may become more secretive.


The Brown Eared-Pheasant is a remarkable bird species, with a unique physical appearance and striking plumages. From its elongated ear tufts to its chestnut-colored throat, this bird captures the attention of bird watchers and nature enthusiasts worldwide.

With its annual molting process, the Brown Eared-Pheasant undergoes a complete transformation, making it a fascinating subject for close observation in the wild.

Systematics History

The Brown Eared-Pheasant, scientifically known as Crossoptilon mantchuricum, belongs to the family Phasianidae, which includes other pheasant species. The taxonomy of this bird species has had a long and complex history, with various changes made over the years.

Geographic Variation

The Brown Eared-Pheasant is found mainly in the mountainous regions of central and southwestern China, but there are variations in its physical appearance depending on its location. For instance, birds found in the Qinling Mountains have a more vibrant red and yellow coloration on their legs and feet, while those found in the Hengduan Mountains have a lighter lower belly.

Additionally, birds from northern China tend to be larger compared to their southern counterparts.


The Brown Eared-Pheasant has four recognized subspecies that are distinguished by their geographic location and physical appearance. Crossoptilon mantchuricum mantchuricum is the nominate subspecies found in northeastern China.

It has a bright rufous-brown plumage and black ear-tufts. Crossoptilon mantchuricum auritum is found in central China, including the Shaanxi and eastern Sichuan provinces.

It has an overall blackish-brown plumage and lighter ear-tufts compared to the nominate subspecies. Crossoptilon mantchuricum kansuense is found in central China and western Sichuan provinces.

It has a dark brown plumage and a dark grey belly. Crossoptilon mantchuricum taczanowskii is found in the southeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau.

It has a darker overall plumage compared to the other subspecies, with a blackish head and greyish-brown body.

Related Species

The Brown Eared-Pheasant is closely related to other pheasant species, including the White Eared-Pheasant (Crossoptilon crossoptilon), Blue Eared-Pheasant (Crossoptilon auritum), and Sichuan Hill-Partridge (Arborophila rufipectus). These bird species share similar physical attributes, such as elongated ear-tufts, bright plumage, and red skin around the eyes.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Brown Eared-Pheasant was once widespread in China, but has experienced a decline in its population due to human activity, habitat loss, and hunting. The species was common in the northeastern part of the country, but by the mid-20th century, it was extinct in this region.

The remaining populations were mainly found in remote mountainous regions of central and southwestern China. In the early 2000s, the Brown Eared-Pheasant began to experience a resurgence in its population due to conservation efforts and captive breeding programs.

These efforts have helped to increase the population size and distribution range of the species. Today, the Brown Eared-Pheasant is considered a Near Threatened species, according to the International Union for

Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Despite the positive progress, human encroachment and habitat loss remain a significant threat to the species survival.


The Brown Eared-Pheasant is a complex bird species with a rich history in China. Its taxonomic classification has undergone numerous changes over the years, and the species also exhibits variations in its physical appearance depending on its location.

The Brown Eared-Pheasant has four recognized subspecies that are distributed throughout the mountainous regions of central and southwestern China. Although the species has experienced a decline in its population due to human activities and habitat loss, conservation efforts have led to an increase in the species population size.

However, more work needs to be done to protect the species from threats such as hunting and habitat destruction. By understanding the Brown Eared-Pheasants history and taxonomy, we can appreciate this magnificent bird species and work towards its conservation and protection.


The Brown Eared-Pheasant is found in China’s mountainous regions within mixed deciduous and evergreen broadleaf forests. The habitats where it resides are usually at elevations ranging from 1,500 meters to 5,000 meters above sea level.

The species is known to occupy both primary and secondary forests, as well as areas close to agricultural lands. The primary forests that these birds occupy are characterized by tall trees, which can reach heights of up to 50 meters, and a thick understory consisting of shrubs and small trees.

These forests also have a dense layer of litter and moss, creating an ideal habitat for small mammals, insects, and birds. The secondary forests that Brown Eared-Pheasants occupy are younger and have a lower canopy, allowing more light to penetrate to the forest floor.

These forests provide a different habitat for the birds, with different plant species and distinct growth patterns. Human activities such as logging, grazing, and farming often lead to the conversion of primary forests into secondary forests, which can negatively impact the birds.

Movements and Migration

The Brown Eared-Pheasant is a non-migratory bird that is considered a resident in its range. It has been observed to have occasionally made small movements within its range, such as seasonal changes in elevation to avoid harsh winter conditions.

However, the species is not known to undertake long-distance migrations. During the cold winter months, Brown Eared-Pheasants seek shelter in dense evergreen forest areas where there is enough food and shelter.

They prefer to remain in areas where there is no snow cover, so they can forage easily. The species is also known to make movements in search of suitable breeding sites, which must be within their preferred habitat.

Male Brown Eared-Pheasants are known to start searching for nesting sites one or two months before the breeding season. The nesting site must have suitable vegetation cover for the bird to build its nest, along with ample food and water sources.


The Brown Eared-Pheasant is considered a Near Threatened species by the International Union for

Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Human activities, including hunting, habitat loss due to logging, and agricultural activities, remain the most significant threats to the species.

In China, the Brown Eared-Pheasant is protected under Category II of the National Key Protected Wildlife List to prevent hunting and trade of the species. Additionally, conservation efforts have been made in recent years to protect the species’ habitat, especially in the remaining primary forest areas where the birds still reside.

Captive breeding and release programs have also been initiated to restore populations in suitable habitat areas. Efforts to conserve and protect the Brown Eared-Pheasant’s habitat are crucial for the restoration and preservation of this remarkable bird species.

Protecting the forest areas where these birds reside also offers the added benefit of safeguarding the ecosystem processes and services that the forests provide.


The Brown Eared-Pheasant’s habitat in the mountainous regions of China is critical for its survival and continued existence as a species. While the birds are non-migratory, they undertake small movements within their range to seek out suitable breeding and foraging sites.

However, habitat loss, poaching, and hunting remain the most significant threats to the Brown Eared-Pheasant’s survival.

Conservation efforts aimed at protecting the bird’s habitat and captive breeding programs have been initiated, but more needs to be done to ensure the species’ long-term survival.

Understanding the species’ movements and habitat requirements is essential in the development of conservation strategies aimed at preserving the Brown Eared-Pheasant as a species.

Diet and Foraging


The Brown Eared-Pheasant is an omnivorous bird species that feeds on a diverse range of food items. It uses its strong legs and bill to forage for food items on the forest floor and in low tree branches.

These birds are known to be active foragers, and they can spend several hours a day searching for food. Adult birds often forage in groups, while juveniles forage in pairs or alone.


The diet of Brown Eared-Pheasants is mainly composed of plants and small invertebrates, including insects, spiders, snails, and worms. They also feed on fruits, berries, nuts, and seeds.

Insects such as beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers, form some of the most essential dietary components, providing the birds with a range of nutrients such as protein and fat.

Research has shown that the Brown Eared-Pheasant’s diet varies seasonally, with more plant matter consumed during the spring and summer seasons. During the fall and winter, the birds consume more animal matter to supplement their food needs.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Brown Eared-Pheasant’s diet and foraging behavior are influenced by its metabolism and ability to regulate body temperature. These birds are endothermic, meaning they can internally regulate their body temperature to maintain homeostasis.

During cold weather, the birds increase metabolic rate and shiver to generate heat to keep their bodies warm. They will also seek shelter in dense forest areas or burrow into the litter and moss on the forest floor to maintain their body temperature.

During hot weather, Brown Eared-Pheasants reduce their metabolic rate and pant to cool off. They may also seek shade or shallow water during the hottest parts of the day to regulate their body temperature.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


Brown Eared-Pheasants have a wide range of vocalizations that they use to communicate with each other and to establish and defend their territories. These birds are known to be loud and vocal, with their vocalizations being some of the most distinctive sounds in their range.

The male birds use a variety of vocalizations during the breeding season to attract females and establish their territory. These include deep and resonant calls, such as “oooo-ah,” which is often repeated several times.

Male birds also produce a harsh cackle when they detect a predator near their territory. The audio produced by the cackle helps the other birds in the area to detect the presence of an intruder and is an effective alarm call to warn other birds of danger.

Female Brown Eared-Pheasants also produce vocalizations that differ from their male counterparts. They produce a high-pitched and faint clucking sound as they move around the forest floor, foraging for food or avoiding predators.

This sound is used to communicate with other birds in their range and serves the dual purpose of keeping the birds aware of each other’s whereabouts.


The Brown Eared-Pheasant is an omnivorous bird species that feeds on a diverse range of food items, with varying dietary needs depending on the season. Its diet is influenced by its metabolism and ability to regulate body temperature.

The species’ vocalizations and sounds are some of the most distinctive sounds in its range, used for communication and establishing territories, warning others, and keeping track of one another. By understanding the Brown Eared-Pheasant’s feeding behavior and vocalizations, researchers and conservationists can develop effective strategies for preserving the species and managing its habitat while also providing a glimpse into the fascinating world of these stunning birds.



The Brown Eared-Pheasant uses bipedal locomotion to move around on the forest floor and climb low branches. The birds have strong legs and feet, which are adapted for efficient walking, running, and jumping.

They move mostly on the ground, but can quickly climb into the understory of the forest as needed.


Brown Eared-Pheasants are fastidious about their grooming and self-maintenance. They use their bills to preen their feathers, keeping them clean and well-maintained.

They also flap their wings and shake their bodies to remove dirt and debris from their feathers.

Agonistic Behavior

Brown Eared-Pheasants exhibit agonistic behavior during the breeding season when males compete for territory and females. They use their vocalizations and displays to attract mates and establish their territory.

Male birds engage in displays such as fanning their tail feathers and ruffling their neck feathers to appear larger and more intimidating to other males.

Sexual Behavior

Male Brown Eared-Pheasants will often present food items to females during courtship displays to help establish a bond. Once a bond is established, the male will proceed to mate with the female.

The breeding season of Brown Eared-Pheasants occurs in the spring, and the birds often form monogamous pairs for the duration of the breeding season.


The breeding season of Brown Eared-Pheasants begins in late April and extends until early June. During this time, birds engage in courtship displays and mating behavior, as well as nest-building and parental care.

Male birds sing and exhibit their distinctive displays for several consecutive days to attract females. The male will then present food items to the females and mate once a bond is established.

During breeding, Brown Eared-Pheasants form monogamous pairs, with each pair staying together for the season. Nest-building begins once the pair has established bonding.

The birds create their nests on the ground, in a sheltered area covered with litter and vegetation. The female lays 6-10 eggs in the nest, which she incubates for approximately one month.

The male will guard the nest and provide food for the female during this time. After hatching, the chicks are dependent on their parents for food and protection.

Both parents provide the chicks with food and teach them how to forage for themselves. The chicks will fledge and leave the nest approximately two weeks after hatching.

Demography and Populations

The Brown Eared-Pheasant is considered a Near Threatened species, with a declining population trend. The main threats to the species include habitat loss and degradation, hunting, and the pet trade.

Conservation efforts aimed at preserving the species have included habitat restoration and captive breeding programs, as well as the implementation of laws and regulations to protect the species from hunting and trade. However, more work needs to be done to ensure the long-term survival of the Brown Eared-Pheasant as a species.


Popular Posts