The Mikado Pheasant is one of the long tailed pheasants belonging to the same genus (Syrmaticus) as the Copper, Reeves, Bartailed and Elliot's pheasants.
At a glance and compared with some other pheasant species it is quite a plain bird the cock being predominantly black with white barring on the tail and wings. However there is a splendid bluish metallic sheen to the black plumage, as well as a perfect contrast of white stripes and bright red orbital wattles which compile to create an especially attractive bird. The hen is a plump, round, looking bird heavily flecked with brown, black and white to give the much needed camouflage for successful motherhood in her natural surroundings.
The wild Mikado is, unfortunately, scarce and endemic only to Taiwan. It lives in thick forests among rhododendrons and bamboo, which is why we like to include these plants in our aviaries.
The Mikados eat a great deal of vegetation and love the new shoots of the bamboo and plenty more besides. These birds enjoy a good varied diet and as well as the game bird pellets, and their usual treats we provide, it is not unusual to see them devouring whatever wildlife they come across in their pens. Not only have we seen them gulping down a plentiful supply of bugs and worms but we've spied them attack, kill and tuck into a mouse and a frog and from time to time come across a dead toad in their aviaries which I assume they kill even if they don't actually eat them.
The Mikado cock is one of the few pheasants to colour up in their first year (although the plumage is not quite as rich and glossy as in the second year). It is also fairly common for both them and the hens to be fertile in their first spring. The hen will start laying her eggs early in April and can continue right through until July. She will lay every two or three days and can lay as many as 40 eggs in the year. The incubation of eggs is quite long being 27 days but the chicks are normally quite easy to rear and integrate with the other pheasant species well while still immature. As with all pheasants, the mature cock may be a bit rough on his hen. We have pairs that are great together but some hens will need a lot of cover and high roosts in their pens to give them a break from their mate. We've also had some success keeping Mikados in trios which can be useful in diffusing the cock's attention to allow the hens some rest.
Mikados are lovely birds to keep, they are pleasant to listen to, especially in the spring when they often sound like they are having a proper chat to one another. They also become quite bold and friendly, especially if you are a keen gardener with plenty of bugs and surplus vegetation to expose of. They may not be the first pheasant that comes to mind but they are a worthwhile bird to consider if you are looking for one that will be neither shy nor too noisy, that will be both amusing and interesting and is not only beautiful but hardy and easy to care for.