White Eared-pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon


Justification of Red List Category
While this species has a large range, only limited habitat is available and therefore it is thought to have a moderately small population. Current population trends are uncertain but it is suspected to be in decline and fears remain over the impacts that continuing development in Tibet may have. For these reasons it is considered Near Threatened.

Population justification
This species's population is estimated at 10,000-50,000 individuals in total, roughly equivalent to 6,700-33,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The species's population is suspected to be declining slowly (Madge and McGowan 2002), owing to habitat loss and hunting pressure.

Distribution and population

Crossoptilon crossoptilon is found in China, where it is known from Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet. It has been estimated to number only 10,000-50,000 individuals and to be declining, but given the extent of its range it is unlikely that numbers fall at the lower end of this band.


It inhabits coniferous and mixed forests near the treeline, plus subalpine birch and rhododendron scrub, at 3,000-4,300 m. Its distribution appears to be determined primarily by water, foraging sites and predation (Fei Jia et al. 2005). It can be common around Buddhist monasteries where it receives cultural protection, but it generally occurs at very low densities in small groups (A. Pack-Blumenau in litt. 2006). The species is monogamous during the breeding season (Wu Yi and Peng Jitai 1996), but it can occasionally be found in groups of up to 30 individuals in winter. It feeds by pecking at the ground and digging for bulbs. Natural predators include crows and buzzards (Wu Yi and Peng Jitai 1996).


It is threatened by deforestation and hunting for food, but the high-altitude forests that it inhabits are not currently suffering rapid rates of deforestation. Completion of a rail link to Tibet is imminent and will lead to increased tourism in the area. It is feared that knock-on effects of this will increase the rate of habitat loss (Wang Nan in litt. 2006).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. Recent records from several protected areas. This bird is traditionally protected under the umbrella of Buddhist culture.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further surveys to obtain a more accurate global population estimate. Consider using the species as a potential flagship for promoting pheasant conservation within Sichuan.


86-96 cm. White plumage distinctive. Sometimes washed grey on the upperparts. Has a black tail, red legs, a red face, and black cap. Juveniles are brownish-grey but quickly obtain adult plumage. Similar spp. None. Voice advertising call is a far-carrying raucous grating.


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Benstead, P., Bird, J., Mahood, S., Taylor, J.

Garson, P., Kaul, R., Pack-Blumenau, A., Wang, N., Grabowski, K., Lu, X.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Crossoptilon crossoptilon. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 07/08/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 07/08/2020.