Malay Crestless Fireback Lophura erythrophthalma


Justification of Red List Category
The continuing rapid reduction in extent and quality of this newly-split pheasant's lowland peat swamp forest habitat, across most of its known range, implies a rapid population reduction and justifies its classification as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 10,000-19,999 mature individuals, although it is now likely to be at the lower end of this range (B. van Balen in litt. 2012). An estimate of 10,000-19,999 mature individuals equates to 15,000-29,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 15,000-30,000 individuals.

Trend justification
This species is threatened by rapid habitat loss and probably hunting pressure, and is consequently suspected to be declining rapidly.

Distribution and population

Lophura erythrophthalma occurs in Peninsular and East Malaysia, and Sumatra, Indonesia (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Johnsgard 1999). There are just a handful of recent records from Sumatra, all from Riau and Jambi provinces. At select sites it has been recorded at densities of up to six birds per km2 (Johnsgard 1999). However, it is not a widespread species and appears to be localised, suggesting the total population is moderately small, although it is probably under-recorded owing to its occurrence in less accessible peat forest and karst forest (B. van Balen in litt. 2012). Continuing forest clearance throughout the Indonesian lowlands must be causing a rapid decline, which is also likely to be the case outside well-protected areas in Peninsular Malaysia (BirdLife International 2001).


It is an extreme lowland specialist, inhabiting primary and well-regenerated, closed canopy, evergreen forest. Birds in Malaysia are tolerant of logged forest, and it has been recorded in lightly logged forest on Sumatra at densities of 6 birds/km2 (Johnsgard 1999). However, precise details of its habitat preferences, and its ecological interactions with its congener L. rufa, are lacking. Where L. rufa populations increase, L. erythrophthalma appears to be excluded and the two species appear to have non-overlapping ranges (Johnsgard 1999).


The overriding threats are habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation as a result of large-scale commercial logging, even within some protected areas, and widespread clearance for plantations of rubber and oil-palm. Rates of forest loss in the Sundaic lowlands have been extremely rapid (Sumatra lost almost 30% of its evergreen forest during 1985-1997), because of a variety of factors, including the escalation of illegal logging and land conversion. A significant issue currently is selective logging in an array of forest reserves (not protected areas per se) that results in habitat degradation, including degradation of any unknown features that influence habitat selection by this species, and opens the forest to fire risk, reduced value, and conversion to agriculture in future. Hunting for food may pose an additional, more localised threat.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in several protected areas, including Taman Negara and Krau Wildlife Reserve (Malaysia). The European captive population is not thought to be currently viable in the long term due to diminishing genetic diversity (A. Hennache in litt. 2004).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Advocate full protection under Indonesian and Malaysian law. Conduct further research into its ecological requirements, including its relationship with L. ignita. Conduct extensive field surveys to establish its distribution and population status in Sumatra and assess its use of recently burned areas Following surveys and GIS analysis, review whether key populations are adequately represented within the existing protected areas network, and advocate protection of further areas if necessary. Assist forest managers in habitat identification and zoning of concession areas. Develop support mechanisms for key IBAs in Peninsular Malaysia. Promote the careful management of captive stocks including the establishment of a studbook to re-establish a viable captive-breeding programme.


Male 47-51 cm, female 42-44 cm. Dark pheasant with short, black-based, caramel-coloured tail. Male, blackish (glossed purplish-blue) with fine whitish vermiculations on upperparts and breast-sides. Female, blackish overall (glossed dark purplish- to greenish-blue) with browner head, paler throat and largely glossless dark tail, centre of belly, vent and flight feathers. Juvenile (both sexes) like female but with rusty-tipped body feathers. Similar spp. Males of L. pyronota (geographically separated) have a matt pale grey neck and bold, narrow white streaking from the neck to mid-belly and hindneck to mantle. Male easily told from Crested Fireback L. ignita by red facial skin, plain underparts and distinctive tail, but care should be taken to separate it from Salvadori's Pheasant L. inornata. Voice Low tak-takrau, vibrating throaty purr and loud kak when alarmed. Low clucking when foraging.


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

Davison, G., Hennache, A. & van Balen, B.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Lophura erythrophthalma. Downloaded from on 07/07/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 07/07/2022.