Information on the golden pheasants natural population status and of some other pheasant species in China is virtually non-existent. In the course of my research into what is presently known of golden pheasants in the wild, I spoke with three people who, in recent years, have made separate visits to that part of the pheasants range included in the Sichuan Province of China. They are the following pheasant experts: Keith Howman, international pheasant and game bird authority and WPA President; Pete Squibb of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (noted authority on ringneck pheasant); and David Rimlinger, the well known curator of birds at the San Diego Zoo who has much experience with keeping pheasants at the San Diego Zoo and has observed several pheasant species in China.
While Keith and Dave were able to see and record observations of various other pheasants, on the Golden pheasant they report only having heard cocks call from within nearby bamboo thicket or wooded haunts. Said Dave: "I tried to track the Golden pheasant cock that was calling but without success."
Like some other Chinese pheasants, the Golden pheasant has been displayed in some Chinese zoos and Dave said San Diego Zoo was able to acquire 9 of the pheasants from two or three zoos during the 1980s. He didn't know whether these were captive bred or wild caught birds.
Pete Squibb confirms how difficult it is to observe this wary and usually well concealed pheasant in this part of China, but in the course of 8 months of field work on the common pheasants in Sichuan Province during the years 1985, 1987, and 1988, he did sight a total of about 12 Golden pheasants and found that the species is hunted by the Chinese for food whenever it is visible.
The pheasant has apparently been trapped frequently for its feathers but is only rarely sport hunted as a game bird because of its usually secretive nature and poor flying ability which is shared by some other pheasants as well. Pete was able to record some new and valuable information on nesting biology of this pheasant along with some other pheasants and game birds. He told me that the stealthy pheasant females, which are known to blend in quite perfectly with their surroundings, were always gone from the nests before humans arrived to inspect or collect eggs.
Pete's mission to China was to collect eggs of the common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus strauchi) in order to establish that species, and perhaps some other pheasants, as game birds for hunting purposes in Michigan which he was successful in doing. About 4500 pheasant eggs were collected and transported to Michigan. However, in the process of collecting common pheasant eggs, local Chinese had discovered a number of Golden pheasants that had nested in dense cover. Pete decided to collect and transport 7 Golden pheasant eggs to Michigan where six hatched, all males. According to him, the pheasants were then distributed to David Calvin of Greeley, Colorado; Eugene Knoder, Elgin, Arizona; and the San Diego Zoo which has a fine record of pheasant propagation. Said he: "They are all banded and Gene Knoder is keeping track of the pheasants as a WPA program." This new pheasant blood that came some years ago directly from the wild has been of significant benefit to the captive gene pool of these pheasant.
Golden Pheasant Page 3
Game Bird Gazette Magazine