Brown Eared-pheasant Crossoptilon mantchuricum


Justification of Red List Category
This species qualifies as Vulnerable because it may have a small population, and although the populations within protected areas appear to be stable, elsewhere remaining unprotected and isolated populations are declining (potentially rapidly) through on-going habitat loss and disturbance.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.5,000-17,000 individuals, equivalent to c.3,300-11,000 mature individuals (Li Xiangtao and Liu Rusan 1993; Zhang Zhengwang 1998b; Zhang Zhengwang (verbally) 1999). The population in China has been estimated at <c.100 breeding pairs (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The species is suspected to be declining at a moderate rate, owing to the continuing loss and fragmentation of its habitat, particularly outside of protected areas, and also from reduced breeding success following human disturbance.

Distribution and population

Crossoptilon mantchuricum is endemic to northern central China, where it is now confined to scattered localities in the Luliang Shan of western Shanxi, and the mountains of north-western Hebei, towards western Beijing, and also found in 1998 in a small area in central-eastern Shaanxi (no fewer than 1,500 individuals in the counties of Yichuan, Huanglong and Hancheng), which may represent an isolated population (He Fenqi in litt. 2012). Its population within protected areas was recently estimated at c.5,000 birds, but on the basis of potential habitat available for this species both inside and outside protected areas, and assuming the mean population density within protected areas is twice that in unprotected areas, it has been tentatively estimated to number up to c.17,000 birds. Recent evidence from the Forest Department of Hebei Province has enlarged the species known range, confirming that it also occurs in Laiyuan and Laishui counties, and that it may be more numerous than previously thought (Zhang Zhengwang 2006).


It breeds in coniferous forest or mixed conifer-broadleaf forest at up to 2,600 m. In winter, it moves to lower altitudes (minimum 1,100 m), to scrub at the forest edge on south-facing slopes. During surveys in western Beijing, the species could not be found lower than 1,000 m (He Fenqi in litt. 2012).


Its range has been fragmented by habitat loss and isolated populations are at risk from further forest loss and other pressures. Outside nature reserves, the threats include deforestation for agriculture and urban development, and habitat degradation due to logging and livestock-grazing. Local people collecting fungi may be the cause of high nest failure rates at Pangquangou National Nature Reserve.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. It is a nationally-protected species in China. It has been the subject of on-going research since the early 1980s. Four nature reserves (Luyashan, Pangquangou, Wulushan and Xiaowutai Shan) are crucial for the protection of this species and its habitats, and there is evidence that numbers have increased in Luyashan and Pangquangou since the reserves were established. In 2001, Huanglongshan Provincial Nature Reserve was established in Huanglong county (He Fenqi in litt. 2012). The tree-planting and forest management programmes since the 1980s are likely to have benefited this species in some other areas, as have captive breeding programmes, although these are of little use where population decline is the result of habitat loss and no subsequent habitat construction/repair has been made (BirdLife International 2001).  Plans were in place for a further three nature reserves to be established by 2009 (Zhang Zhengwang 2006).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Assess the impact of the logging ban and promote measures to prevent further deforestation within its range. Implement the recently completed management plans for the four critical reserves holding this species and develop a plan for the new Wulushan National Nature Reserve Develop population monitoring programmes in the four critical reserves. Conduct additional surveys in Shaanxi and elsewhere in its range, with the aim of identifying suitable sites for the designation of new protected areas. Research habitat preferences to inform protected area forest management.  Support the establishment of a new reserve at Donlingshan.  Conduct a feasibility study for translocation into Taiyue Shan (Shanxi), where its habitat has been restored, and support the development of captive-breeding populations for such reintroductions. Ensure the three additional protected areas proposed are established by 2009 (Zhang Zhengwang 2006).


96-100 cm. Brown-and-white pheasant with prominent white cheek tufts extending from bill base. Mainly darkish brown body plumage with white lower back, rump and uppertail-coverts, and longish, filamentous white tail with broad, dark tips. Bare red facial skin and legs. Female usually slightly smaller and lacks tarsus spurs. Voice Utters high-pitched, raucous calls and call transliterated Trip-c-r-r-r-r-r-ah! of variable length (sometimes abrupt, occasionally drawn out for c.60 seconds), increasing in pitch and volume.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Keane, A., Taylor, J.

He, F., Zhang, Z.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Crossoptilon mantchuricum. Downloaded from on 22/10/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2020.