Mountain Peacock-pheasant Polyplectron inopinatum


Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Vulnerable because it has a small, fragmented range and population, which are suspected to be declining slowly. It may warrant uplisting in the future if plans (which have currently been suspended) to build a road are reinstated.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Slow declines are suspected owing to on-going conversion of habitat around the species's lower altitudinal limit. However, although a proposal to build a road linking several hill stations within its range have been shelved, if this goes ahead in the future it would have serious impacts on the species.

Distribution and population

Polyplectron inopinatum is currently only known from central Peninsular Malaysia, although there is growing evidence of its presence in extreme southern Thailand. In Malaysia it is found in the Main Range from the Cameron Highlands south to the Genting Highlands, in the Larut Range to the north-west, and on eastern outlying peaks Gunung Tahan and Gunung Benom. There are recent records from at least 12 localities, at two of which it has been described as common. Total numbers are likely to be small, owing to its highly restricted range and general relative scarcity within it. At present, the population is believed to be declining slowly.


It is sedentary in lower and upper montane evergreen forest, including elfin forest, from c.820 m to at least 1,600 m, and was once found at 1,800 m. It is usually found in steep areas or along ridges with exposed corestones, some bamboo and climbing palms. It is less vocal than other members of the genus, and is hence less easily detectable.


Conversion of forest for agriculture around its lower altitudinal limits may be causing some declines. Tourist developments continue to drive the fragmentation and degradation of forest in the Cameron Highlands (J. Taylor pers. obs. 2011). There is a considerable danger that a proposed north-south road linking the hill stations of Genting Highlands, Fraser's Hill and Cameron Highlands will result in the further fragmentation and degradation of a substantial area of its montane habitat. These plans have been shelved, but should they be raised again, the species may warrant uplisting.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in at least three protected areas, Taman Negara (which encompasses Gunung Tahan, and various other peaks where it could occur), Krau Wildlife Reserve (which incorporates one-third of the flanks of Gunung Benom) and the very small Fraser's Hill Wildlife Sanctuary. PERHILITAN is embarking on a captive breeding and release programme having captured three males and two females from the Cameron Highlands for this purpose (Yeap Chin Aik in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Develop a robust monitoring protocol and monitor populations at known sites. Conduct surveys to assess its habitat preferences, clarify its distribution and population status within its known range, and to establish whether it occurs to the north of this range. Use as a flagship species to lobby for a substantial new protected area in the Main Range. Develop support mechanisms for key IBAs in Peninsular Malaysia and support the establishment of this, and further, captive breeding programmes.


Male 65 cm, female 46 cm. Dark peacock-pheasant with blackish underparts. Similar spp. From allopatric Malayan Peacock Pheasant P. malacense by much smaller, dark bluish ocelli on upperside, strong chestnut tinge to lower upperparts, darker tail with no obvious rings around dark green ocelli, dark greyish head and neck with whitish speckles and blackish underparts. Females have smaller black ocelli and shorter, less graduated tail with almost no ocelli. Voice Male territorial call is series of 1-4 fairly loud, harsh clucks or squawks.


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

Davison, G., Aik, Y., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Polyplectron inopinatum. Downloaded from on 28/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/03/2023.