Brown Eared Pheasant

Crossoptilon mantchuricum

Brown Eared Pheasants are endemic to China. They live mostly in sub alpine forests above 1200m. Like the other eared pheasants they have very powerful beaks which they use to dig up roots. They will also eat leaves, shoots, seeds, insects and worms.

I would suggest, in an aviary for Eared Pheasants, using only cheap, tough, plants as they will have serious vandalism to contend with and many plants will be unable to withstand the continual torment they face to all parts of themselves from the "savage" inhabitants.

Thankfully we are treated more kindly than the plants by these large birds who have proven to be friendly, vivacious and entertaining additions to our menagerie. The plumage of the Brown Eared Pheasant is mostly a beautiful glossy brown of a fine almost hair like structure. They have a black crown and long creamy white ear tufts. Their rump is a light cream as is their tail which is edged with black. The tail feathers are wide and usually held high to form a lovely arch of soft fronds. They have reddish legs and bright red wattles.

Like all our pheasants the eared pheasants receive a proprietary game feed with fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds. They enjoy mealworms and love peanuts, in fact they can become quite noisy and impatient if we're taking too long to reach their pen, when they can see we have treats with us. As previously mentioned they are natural diggers so root vegetables can keep them occupied for a while and they will enjoy large branches and logs added to the aviary. The more they have to keep them busy the better as they do seem to have a tendency to become bored. They can be bad for feather pecking and egg eating and I think much of the reason for these traits is their curiosity. They always want to be busy with something so it's our job to keep them amused.

By their second year a pair of Brown Eared Pheasants should be able to produce fertile eggs. Laying starts in mid April and a clutch consists of 5 - 8 eggs. Up to around 20 eggs can be laid in a year. As we incubate our eggs artificially I can't say how good the hens are as mothers but given the number of cocks who break eggs I don't fancy the chances of rearing chicks successfully alongside their father. Some of our Brown Eared hens are not great at laying in a good nest spot and instead will lay out in the open (sometimes near the gate) which doesn't really bode well for their motherly instincts. That being said we also have Eared hens who bury their eggs. While this is not particularly beneficial, for us, on an egg hunt, it does give the eggs a much better chance of escaping the cock's attentions and shows that there is hope for some, clever Mums, after all.

The sex of Brown Eared Pheasants can be difficult to determine. There can be a slight difference in size of the bird (the hen being smaller) and the face wattles of the male are larger. I would say to look at the facial skin (especially above the eye). The hen will probably have roughly the same amount of red both above and below and the eye patch will appear fairly long horizontally. On the cock bird the facial skin will cover more of the face so the patch will have a chunkier possibly diamond shaped appearance and on occasion may even be raised as high as the top of the crown. The area above the eye, on the male, might also have a fair bit more red skin than the area below it. The bird's spurs are normally used to sex the birds, however, on young birds, this is not as easy with the Brown Eared's as the White. The Brown Eared cock's spurs take longer to grow and don't become quite as large as those of the White Eared's. The spurs, of the Brown Eared cock, will be rounder at the base than those on the hens whose are more oval in shape. As this can be difficult to see in immature birds some breeders prefer to have the DNA of the birds tested so they know early and no mistakes are made. The cock's spurs will eventually grow whereas the hen's will stay tiny but this can take quite a few months so that someone inexperienced (or with only one sex of bird) may be unsure about what they have. One other thing which may help to determine sex of a young bird, but unfortunately is in no way conclusive on it's own, is the bird's behaviour. A male is usually the braver sex. They are more likely to come forward and possibly even raise themselves up in a "ready to fight" stance (at times this can be seen in chicks as early as a day old). The hens tend to be the quieter birds who will be less troublesome in mixed aviaries and will shy away a little or stand back if both sexes are kept together.

Even though the Brown Eared Pheasants can be noisy, messy and destructive tearaways (much like teenagers), I love them and the aviaries wouldn't be the same without their cheeky antics. These birds are extremely hardy and enjoy being out in the snow, rain, wind and sun. They are one of the calmer species of pheasant and become very friendly. In fact they will try and catch the attention of anyone coming close to them. They will show off, follow you around and eat out of your hand with very little encouragement. In my opinion they deserve a place in many more aviaries as they are a fun bird and extremely easy to look after.

Brown Eared Pheasant hen Brown Eared Pheasant hen
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