Elliot's Pheasant Syrmaticus ellioti


Justification of Red List Category
Despite the presence of habitat loss and hunting as on-going threats, there is no clear evidence that the species is undergoing a dramatic decline. However, it is precautionarily retained as Near Threatened, although further evidence that the species is not declining may lead to further downlisting in the future.

Population justification
Ongoing and extensive survey efforts have led to a global population estimate of c.100,000-200,000 individuals (Fellowes, J. in litt. 2007; He Fen-qi in litt. 2007), while the population in China has been estimated at <c.10,000 breeding pairs (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
Habitat loss was believed to have resulted in a rapid population decline. Clearance of natural forest has been illegal since 1998 and although hunting is also a factor at a local level it seems that what were previously assumed to be rapid population declines are now slower. Although there is no evidence that the population is dramatically declining, a decline of 20-29% over the past three generations is precautionarily suspected.

Distribution and population

Syrmaticus ellioti is endemic to south-east China, where it has been recorded from Guizhou, Hubei, Anhui, Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangxi and Guangdong (BirdLife International 2001). It was believed to be declining rapidly within its highly fragmented habitat and to no longer occur at many former localities (Ding Ping in litt. 2005, Zhang Zhengwang in litt. 2005). However, in recent years its known range has been greatly extended to the west (Ding Ping in litt. 2005, Zhang Zhengwang in litt. 2005) and there have been reports that it is locally common. Surveys in Guangxi and Guandong failed to record the species in or Guandong, and a 2004 survey estimated the population density in Guanshan Nature Reserve, Jiangxi to be 0.063 individuals/ha(Ding Ping in litt. 2005), but other reports suggest it occurs at densities of up to 6 individuals/km2 (Ding Ping in litt. 2005, J. Fellowes in litt. 2007). Considerable survey effort over 20 years in China suggests that the species is relatively widespread and given recent records that have extended the known range and estimated population densities the global population size may exceed 100,000 (even approaching 200,000) individuals (J. Fellowes in litt. 2007; He Fen-qi in litt. 2007, 2010). Furthermore, there appears to be no evidence indicating that the population has undergone dramatic declines (He Fen-qi in litt. 2007, 2010).


It occurs in a wide variety of subtropical forest-types, and sometimes in scrub vegetation between 200 m and 1,900 m. The most important habitats are broadleaf forest (both evergreen and deciduous) and mixed coniferous and broadleaf forest. Its preferred breeding habitat is forest with a tree cover of more than 90%.


Most of the natural forest within its range has been cleared or modified as a result of the demands for agricultural land and timber, but natural forest clearance has been illegal since 1998. Current threats include the burning of forest by man-made hill fires, collection of firewood, and illegal hunting (Liang Wei in litt. 2004).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. It is a nationally-protected species in China and is listed as Near Threatened on the China Species Red List. There are many protected areas in or near to its range, but most of these are relatively small and isolated, and it is not clear how many contain large enough areas of suitable forest to support viable populations. Guanshan Nature Reserve (Jiangxi) appears to support a significant population. Other protected areas where it has been recorded include Fanjing Shan, Leigong Shan, Qingliangfeng, Wuyanling, Wuyishan, Gutianshan and Jinggangshan Nature Reserves. Guizhou has recently set up two nature reserves in areas where the species is known to occur; one in Rongjiang county and another in Congjiang county (Liang Wei in litt. 2004). The genetic structure of populations in five provinces was recently studied (Jiang et al. 2007).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Develop a robust population monitoring methodology to allow monitoring of key protected areas. Promote conservation education and better law enforcement to prevent illegal logging and poaching in protected areas. Ensure that the species's needs are fully reflected in management plans for key protected areas and that staff are adequately trained. Conduct research to assess its tolerance to disturbance. Consider focussing some research and management resources on the relatively isolated population in Guizhou province (Jiang et al. 2007).


Male c.80 cm, female c.50 cm. Boldly marked pheasant with long barred tail. Male rich reddish-brown with whitish-grey hood, black throat, white belly and white shoulder and wing-bars, with tail evenly barred rufous and pale grey. Female duller, more greyish-brown, lacks white wing- and shoulder-bars and has shorter tail with indistinct bars. Similar spp. Larger female Reeves's Pheasant S. reevesii has warmer buff head, lacking black throat and red facial skin. Voice Low clucks and chuckles, and a shrill squeal. Hints Display includes audible wing-whirring.


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

Wei, L., Zhang, Z., Fellowes, J., Ping, D., He, F.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Syrmaticus ellioti. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/10/2021.