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The Magnificent Bornean Peacock-Pheasant: Striking Plumage and Unique Courtship Display

The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant, also known as Polyplectron schleiermacheri, is a spectacular bird of the pheasant family, found in the lowland rainforests of Borneo. This bird is known for its striking appearance, and its unique display behaviour.

In this article, we will explore the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant and learn what makes this bird so special.




The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is a medium-sized bird, ranging from 50 – 70 cm in length. Its most striking feature is its iridescent blue and green plumage, which is highly visible in the sun.

The male has larger and more elaborate plumage than the female bird. The male has a long and elaborate tail filled with ornate feathers, which are raised and spread during the courting display.

Similar Species:

The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant has similar behaviors to other peacock pheasants, such as the Crested Argus, but can be easily distinguished from other species by its striking plumage.


The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant has two plumages, the breeding (display) and nonbreeding (eclipse) plumages.

Breeding Plumage:

The male Bornean Peacock-Pheasant has a highly-ornate display plumage, marked with blue, green, and gold feathers. The feathers on the head and neck are long, with an iridescent green and blue shine.

The male also has a velvety-black neck marked with white and brown stripes. The tail feathers are the most impressive.

They have large, eye-shaped designs, in natural hues of blue and green, run through with white and gold bars. During display, the male fans out its tail into a peacock-like display.

Nonbreeding Plumage:

The nonbreeding plumage is more subdued and duller compared to the breeding plumage, making it difficult to distinguish males from females. During this period, the male does not display the magnificent tail feathers.


The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant goes through two molts similar to other birds. During the first molt, which takes place in the breeding season, the male will lose all his feathers and regrow the magnificent plumage he needs to attract a mate.

The second molt happens after the breeding season, during which the bird may lose feathers depending on the resources available to him. In conclusion, the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is a marvelous bird with striking plumage and unique display behavior.

It is highly prized both locally and internationally for its beauty and unique nature. Despite being challenging to see in the wild, it’s worth the effort to catch a glimpse of this magnificent bird and admire its stunning colors.

As a result, the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant’s conservation status remains vulnerable, and efforts must be made to protect the species and their habitat in the wild.

Systematics History

The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant, Polyplectron schleiermacheri, belongs to the family Phasianidae, in the order Galliformes, which includes other chicken-like birds such as turkeys, quails, and chickens. The first scientific description of the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant was by German ornithologist Hermann Schlegel in 1871, who named it after the German philologist, Friedrich Schleiermacher.

Geographic Variation

The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is found only on the island of Borneo, which is divided among three countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. The birds from Malaysian Borneo are the smallest, while those from Indonesian Borneo are the largest.

In terms of plumage, there is little variation between the different populations, and the male Bornean Peacock-Pheasant always has an iridescent blue-green plumage.


There are four recognized subspecies of the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant, distinguished mainly by geographical location:

1. P.

s. schleiermacheri, found in West Kalimantan and Sarawak, the largest and the most striking of all subspecies, with iridescent blue and green colors, and a distinctively narrow black and white collar.

2. P.

s. borneensis, found in Sabah, with a bluish-green crown and nape, black and white collar, a rust-colored back, and overall duller plumage.

3. P.

s. igniocaudatus, found in Central Kalimantan, differing from the other subspecies by having a more extensive blue crown, face and neck, a wider black and white collar, a dark abdomen, and a fiery red tail.

4. P.

s. aequatorialis, found in East Kalimantan, with a smaller size compared to other subspecies, and a less iridescent blue and green plumage, with a more uniform brownish-purple hue.

Related Species

The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant belongs to the genus Polyplectron, which consists of other four peacock-pheasant species native to Southeast Asia. These include the Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant (P.

germaini), the Mountain Peacock-Pheasant (P. inopinatum), the Bronze-tailed Peacock-Pheasant (P.

chalcurum), and the Malayan Peacock-Pheasant (P. malacense).

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant’s historical range has remained relatively stable, aside from distribution changes due to deforestation and human encroachment. However, three subspecies have not been reported since their initial descriptions, specifically P.

s. igniocaudatus from central Borneo, P.

s. montivagus from the Kapuas Mountains, and P.

s. jaramacaruensis from Gunung Lawit in Sarawak.

These subspecies may be extinct, lost, or not yet found. Deforestation has reduced the range of the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant in recent decades.

In 2014, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessed the species as ‘vulnerable’ due to habitat fragmentation and loss of lowland and hill forest habitats that are essential to their survival. The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant’s preference for more natural forest conditions makes it vulnerable to forest fragmentation, which reduces population numbers and isolates pockets of individuals, greatly decreasing genetic diversity.

In conclusion, the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is one of the most beautiful and unique birds in the world. Its historical distribution, subspecies, and closely-related species have undergone various changes through time, mainly due to deforestation and habitat loss.

As efforts continue to reduce human impacts on its habitat, and local and international conservation initiatives aimed at preserving the species’ habitat cooperate, the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant may once again thrive in the lush rainforests of Borneo.


The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is a bird species endemic to Borneo, with a preference for lowland and hill forests. It can also be found in riverine forests and secondary forests, as long as they have dense understory and canopy vegetation.

They generally prefer areas with a high moisture content, such as wetlands, swamp forests, and peat swamp forests. They are also known to inhabit both logged and unlogged forests.

The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant prefers thick, dense vegetation, and can often be found in areas with high humidity, such as the forest floor. It spends most of its time foraging, scratching at the forest floor for insects, invertebrates, small reptiles and amphibians, and fallen fruits and seeds.

They are often found in pairs or small groups, and can be seen moving around in the understory or perched on fallen logs, branches, and vines.

Movements and Migration

The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is a resident bird that does not undertake long-distance migration movements. However, it is known to undertake short-range movements within its home range to access fresh food or water sources, or to follow the movement patterns of other bird species whose flocks have seasonal patterns.

In fragmented habitats, the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant may move through narrow forest corridors or patches to access isolated forest fragments, and can occasionally be found outside of its known range. Several studies have reported that the birds move around more during the breeding season, with males covering a larger area during courtship displays.

During the breeding season, male Bornean Peacock-Pheasants will leave their regular foraging territories and move to central display areas, where they will be seen performing courtship displays to attract females. Males will establish a territory, which they will defend aggressively against intruding males, and perform loud calls to attract females.

These displays usually occur early in the morning and can continue for several hours, and can often be heard from a great distance.

However, during the non-breeding season, both males and females will typically return to their foraging territories and avoid one another.

Non-breeding males will not display their ornate feathers and will remain relatively inconspicuous to avoid attracting undue attention. In conclusion, the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is a ground-dwelling bird species that prefers dense, humid forests, with a preference for lowland and hill rainforests.

It can move short distances to access fresh food or water sources, especially during breeding seasons or to follow other bird flocks. During the courtship season, males will move to central display areas to attract females using loud calls and ornate displays.

By understanding the bird’s habitat requirements and movements, we can design effective conservation strategies to protect the species and maintain its home range.

Diet and Foraging


The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant feeds on insects, invertebrates, small reptiles and amphibians, and fallen fruits and seeds. It is an omnivore, and its diet varies according to the season.

During the breeding season, the diet of males changes to include more protein-rich foods, such as insects and crabs, to improve their muscle mass, which is required to perform the courtship displays. Diet:

Fruits make up a significant portion of the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant’s diet, especially fallen fruits that are abundant in the forest understory.

The fruit includes figs, macaranga, Piper, and Myristica, among others. The birds also feed on a variety of insects, including beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

Being a ground-dwelling forest-dwelling bird, the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant requires a high metabolic rate to maintain its high activity level. The bird’s metabolic rate is high enough to generate its basal metabolic rate at night to maintain its body heat.

It also regulates its body temperature during the hot and humid daytime by panting through the mouth, thereby expelling excess heat from the body.

Sounds and Vocal



The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is known for its vocalizations, which are used for communication and courtship displays. The males can produce five different types of calls, namely territorial, flight, advertisement, greeting, and threat calls.

The calls are distinctive and can be heard from a considerable distance. When calling, males hold their head up high, expand their throat, and purse their beak, producing a distinctive, loud guttural sound.

The sounds are created through the vibration of specially designed muscles that produce air at high speeds over the syrinx, a sound-producing organ located at the base of the trachea. During courtship displays, males perform intricate dances, spreading and fanning out their ornate feathers, while simultaneously emitting loud calls.

The display is also accompanied by bobbing movements of the head, tail, and body, and is sometimes accompanied by leaping, flapping of wings, and even short flights. Females are attracted to males with the most extensive and most vibrant plumage, the loudest calls, and the most intricate displays.

The females do not call, and are generally silent throughout the breeding season. In Conclusion, the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is primarily a fruit-eater that forages for its food on the forest floor.

The bird has a high metabolic rate, which enables it to stay active throughout the day and maintain its body heat. The bird is known for its vocalizations, which are used for communication and courtship.

The males produce loud, distinctive guttural calls, which are essential for mate attraction and territorial displays. The females are silent and are attracted to males with the most intricate displays.

By understanding the bird’s vocalization and foraging behaviors, we can develop effective conservation strategies to protect and conserve the species.



The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is a ground-dwelling bird that uses its sturdy legs to travel on forest floors. Its legs are also used to scratch and dig up food from the forest floor.

The bird can also make short and quick flights, especially to evade predators or when moving to different parts of their home range. Self Maintenance:

The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is known for its cleanliness and self-maintenance behavior.

The bird has an oil gland on its tail that produces a waxy substance that it uses to grooming its feathers. The bird also bathes frequently, using forest puddles or pools, and shakes itself after bathing to dry off excess water.

This self-maintenance behavior is essential to maintain the bird’s flight feathers and to keep them in top condition. Agonistic


Both males and females of the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant can exhibit agonistic behavior, especially when defending their territories.

The birds use their vocalizations, displays, and physical confrontations to dissuade or repel intruders. The male will show off its ornate feathers when warning other males away, while the female may engage in push-and-shove behavior to prevent other females from accessing resources.



The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant has unique sexual behaviors that are visible during courtship displays. The males will display their ornate tail feathers, spreading and fanning them out while performing an intricate dance.

The dance is accompanied by guttural calls, bobbing, flapping, and leaping movements that often last several minutes. The male will repeatedly display to a female until she accepts him or moves away.

The female may accept or reject the male depending on the quality of his display and his overall condition.


The breeding season for the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is from September to February, coinciding with the fruiting season of many plant species. During this period, the male birds become more vocal and abandon their typical daily activities to concentrate on courtship displays.

Males will move to central display areas, where they will establish breeding territories and aggressively defend them against rivals.

The females will choose the male with the best display and courtship behavior, and the pair will mate.

The female will lay a clutch of one or two eggs in a ground-level scrape that she makes in the forest floor or other protected areas. The incubation period lasts about 21 days, and the female is solely responsible for incubating the eggs, while the male stands guard around the nest to prevent predators from destroying the eggs.

After the chicks hatch, they will remain in the nest for several days until they are strong enough to leave. The mother will remain with the chicks, protecting and teaching them how to forage for their food and defend themselves against predators.

Demography and Populations

The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant’s population is declining due to human activities such as logging, hunting, and habitat loss. The species is classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with an estimated population of fewer than 10,000 mature adult birds.

The decline in population is due to habitat fragmentation and loss, deforestation, forest degradation, and conversion of the species’ habitat for human use. Climate change and natural disasters such as fires and floods also have a significant impact on the bird’s population.

Conservation actions such as habitat protection, maintaining forest corridors, regulating hunting, and minimizing forest degradation due to human activities can prevent population decline. The Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is an essential species and plays a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of the forest ecosystem.

Protecting its habitat and ensuring a sustainable future for the bird species must be a priority for conservationists and wildlife authorities. In conclusion, the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant is a fascinating bird species found only on the island of Borneo.

Its unique appearance, vocalizations, and courtship displays make it a highly prized species among bird enthusiasts, but it is also an important part of the ecosystem, with a critical role in maintaining the balance within the forest. The species faces numerous threats, including habitat loss, fragmentation, and hunting, with its population size declining.

Therefore, it is vital to ensure conservation efforts are in place that focuses on protecting the bird’s habitat, regulating hunting, and

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