Bulwer's Pheasant Lophura bulweri


Justification of Red List Category
This pheasant is classified as Vulnerable because it is suspected to be declining rapidly owing to extensive and on-going habitat loss, compounded by hunting. It is also assumed to have a small population, which is likely to be experiencing increasingly severe fragmentation, particularly as it may be dependent on nomadic visits to lowland areas.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 1,000-10,000 individuals by McGowan and Garson (1995). It is placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals here, equating to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
The species is suspected to be undergoing a rapid population decline owing to the loss and fragmentation of its forest habitat, although it is mainly restricted to relatively less threatened hill forest, with the possibility that the rate of decline is slower than this (B. van Balen in litt. 2012), necessitating further research.

Distribution and population

Lophura bulweri is endemic to Borneo, where it is known from Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia, Kalimantan, Indonesia and Brunei. Although apparently rather patchily distributed, it was once described as very common in undisturbed parts of interior Borneo. In 1995, it was estimated to number fewer than 10,000 individuals. Despite there being no reason to believe that the species was threatened a decade ago, the paucity of recent records, combined with anecdotal information regarding its habits and alarming current rates of habitat loss, indicate that it may be declining rapidly.


It inhabits primary hill and lower montane forest, from c.300 m up to at least 1,500 m, and at least occasionally down to c.150 m. Limited field evidence suggests that the species is nomadic. It may rely on lowland forest masting events, resulting in feeding concentrations, after which it breeds, later moving back up into the hills. It may not appear again in the same area for years.


Forest loss, degradation and fragmentation, through large-scale commercial logging, widespread clearance for plantations of rubber and oil-palm, and extensive recent fires pose the primary threats, compounded more locally by hunting for food. If, as suggested, it is dependent on lowland masting events, highways and clearings through mountains and across the lowlands may have cut off potential access routes to important feeding areas, which in turn may be undermining its breeding capacity.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is afforded protection under Indonesian law and is a protected species in Sarawak, Malaysia. It has recently been recorded in at least six protected areas including Kayan Mentarang National Park (Rowden 2001a), Bukit Raya National Park (Kalimantan), Gunung Mulu and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary (Sarawak) and the Danum Valley Conservation Area (Sabah).  Captive breeding birds, usually kept in monogamous pairs, do exist, with 20 individuals registered in 2001.  These, however, enjoy only sporadic breeding success, perhaps in part due to the social structure in which they are kept (Rowden 2001b)

Conservation Actions Proposed
Identify and record its vocalisations to aid field surveys. Conduct extensive field surveys to assess its distribution, status and ecological requirements (focussing particularly on whether it is nomadic and reliant on masting events). Promote prohibition of hunting by those living or working within logging concessions. Promote the concept of Forest Management Units in Sabah (99-year concessions of great size). Assist forest managers in habitat identification and zoning of concession areas. Support the proposed extension of Bukit Raya National Park, and establishment of further protected areas found to hold populations.


Male 77-80 cm, female c.55 cm. Blackish-plumaged pheasant with bushy, gleaming white tail (male). Blue facial skin and wattles, red legs and indistinct bluish spotting to tips of upperpart feathers. Female smaller and darkish rufous-brown in colour with dull bluish facial skin and red legs. Similar spp. Female Crested Fireback L. ignita has tufted crest, prominently white-scaled underparts and pale legs. Voice Territorial call shrill, piercing cry, also utters kak alarm notes and penetrating, rather metallic kook!, kook!


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

Rowden, J., van Balen, B., Davison, G.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Lophura bulweri. Downloaded from on 29/05/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 29/05/2020.