Written by Danny Buccelli, Animal Care Professional
This is a very special year for the Aviary Department as well as birders across the globe. 2018 marks the centennial signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act – many say it’s the most powerful and important bird-protection law ever passed. Every month, the Zoo’s Aviary team will spotlight a bird who needs our help. This month, we are showcasing the Edward’s pheasant.
The Edward’s pheasant is a beautiful pheasant species that is only found in Vietnam. Edward’s pheasant males and females can be differentiated by their appearance. The male is mostly dark blue with a white crest and the female is brown and lacks the white crest. The bird faces many threats, ranging from habitat destruction to hunting. Much of the forests in the species’ home range were destroyed due to herbicide spraying. Many biologists believed that the Edward’s pheasant was extinct until a population was rediscovered in 1996. Biologists quickly incorporated reserves to help as a last refuge for the species, but due to the harsh landscape in Vietnam’s fragmented forests and an increase in hunting pressures, there have been very few confirmed sightings of this species. The last time an Edward’s pheasant was physically seen in the wild was in 2000 – two males, a female, and four eggs were observed in Quang Tri, located in central Vietnam. As of 2012, the Edward’s pheasant has been up-listed to Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List with an estimate of 50 to 249 mature individuals left in Vietnam.
Here at ZooTampa, the Aviary Department partakes in a Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the Edward’s pheasant in hopes to help this critically endangered species. We currently have four individuals. Two of our adults live in our Australasia Aviary and actually had five chicks a couple of years ago! They were first time parents and did a wonderful job caring for their chicks. As part of the SSP, some of their babies now call other AZA-accredited zoos home. This helps build the population with the hopes of saving these incredible species from extinction. You can see our Edward’s pheasants in the Main Aviary and Australasia Aviary in Wallaroo Station.