Reeves's Pheasant Syrmaticus reevesii


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Vulnerable because its small and mostly unprotected population is severely fragmented and is declining rapidly in the face of continuing habitat loss and over-hunting.

Population justification
The population size has been estimated at c.3,000 and c.5,000 individuals, but it may be more numerous than this. It is placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals, equating to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Hunting and habitat loss and fragmentation remain important threats and together they are suspected to be driving a rapid population decline in this species.

Distribution and population

Syrmaticus reevesii is endemic to central China, where it is known from Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Anhui and Hunan (BirdLife International 2001). It was formerly reported to be very common, but its range is now highly fragmented, and it has apparently been extirpated from Shanxi and Hebei. More recent evidence indicates that its population must be declining further because of habitat loss. Surveys in Dongzhai National Nature Reserve during the springs of 2008 and 2009 yielded estimated densities of 0.125 individuals/ha and 0.126 individuals/ha respectively, lower than in 2005, and a population estimate in 2008-2009 for the reserve of c.1,000 individuals (Qiu Yang and Zhang Zhengwang 2010). The species has been introduced to Hawaii and various parts of Europe. The global population is currently put at a maximum of 15,000 individuals; however, the population in China alone could number c.23,000 individuals (per Xu Jiliang in litt. 2012).


It is found in a variety of forest-types in the zone where the temperate forests of north-east China intergrade with the subtropical forests of south China. It is found chiefly in broadleaf forests dominated by oaks, usually with a dense canopy and sparse undergrowth, but also in conifer forest and scrub. The radio-tracking of males in Dongzhai National Nature Reserve found that they preferred mixed conifer-broadleaf forest, as well as favouring mature fir plantations and shrubby vegetation. They may thus need a mosaic of habitats to meet their needs throughout the year (Ji-Liang Xu et al. 2007). The species also utilises farmland adjacent to forest edge. Recent research in Dongzhai National Nature Reserve has shown that egg-laying takes place from late March onwards, with females incubating the eggs alone and caring for the fledglings for several weeks (Qiu Yang and Zhang Zhengwang 2010).


The main threat to the species is the continuing deforestation within its range, which is reducing and fragmenting its habitat. Hunting for food is believed to be an important threat, and its eggs are collected. It was hunted in the past for its long tail feathers, which were used as a decoration in the Peking opera costumes, but plastic feathers are increasingly being used for this purpose.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is a nationally-protected species in China. Habitat preferences have been intensively studied in Dongzhai National Nature Reserve (Zhang Zhengwang in litt. 2005, Ji-Liang Xu et al. 2007, Qiu Yang and Zhang Zhengwang 2010). Continuing research will address its biology and conservation requirements (Zhang Zhengwang in litt. 2005). It occurs in several nature reserves, including Fanjingshan (Guizhou), Baotianman and Jigongshan (Henan), Badagongshan (Hunan), Taibaishan, Foping and Zhouzhi (Shaanxi) and Shennongjia (Hubei). In 1992, Tuoda Forest in Guizhou was established as a local nature reserve specifically for this species, but illegal felling has since occurred.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct an awareness campaign, promoting the species as a flagship for forest conservation. Continue to assess the adequacy of the protected area network, focussing on Guizhou, Chongqing, Shaanxi, Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan and Gansu Provinces. Assess the ecology of the species in broadleaf/mixed forests. Develop appropriate habitat management practices in protected areas and establish captive breeding programmes for future supplementations/reintroductions. Reduce hunting through education campaigns. Promote balanced forest management, with logging prohibited in parts of its range and artificial plantations promoted where they can provide additional habitat. Advocate increasing its legal protection in China by elevating it to first class protected species status.


Male c.210 cm, female c.75 cm. Very boldly patterned pheasant with extremely long, barred tail. Male unmistakable with white head and black mask meeting on nape, bright golden-chestnut body, boldly-scaled black, and orange-buff tail boldly marked black and white. Female shorter-tailed and much duller with buff face, but for dark eye-mask. Voice Territorial call comprises series of high-pitched chirping notes. Hints Display includes audible wing-whirring.


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

Zhang, Z., Xu, J., Lu, X.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Syrmaticus reevesii. Downloaded from on 05/07/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 05/07/2022.