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The Mikado pheasant (Syrmaticus mikado) is a gamebird in the pheasant family Phasianidae of the order Galliformes, gallinaceous birds. Sometimes considered an unofficial national bird of Taiwan, a pair of Mikado Pheasants and Yushan National Park, one of the areas it is known to inhabit, is depicted in the 1000$ bill of the Taiwanese Dollar.
Distribution and habitat
The Mikado pheasant is endemic to mountainous regions of Taiwan. The species occupies dense shrubs, bamboo growth and grassy terrain with conifer overstory in central and southern Taiwan, from 2000 to 3200 meters above sea level.
The shiny long-tailed males of this species get to be up to 70 cm in body length, while the smaller and less showy females measure up to 47 cm. The long and stiff shiny tail feathers of the bird were used by the Taiwanese aborigines as a head-dress decoration. The type specimen of the pheasant comprises two such tail feathers obtained in 1906 by collector Walter Goodfellow from the head-dress of one of his porters.
The pheasants will often come out into the open either in light rain or after heavy rain, where the mist conceals them. They tend to be solitary, often quiet, yet alert. They can usually tolerate the presence of humans and, as long as there is an intervening distance of 10–20 metres, it is possible to observe them. When disturbed, they will slowly and cautiously seek out shelter within surrounding vegetation, rather than fluttering away in a panic. If desperate, they will fly short distances, gliding down the mountainside. The males are territorial, with a range of 200–400 metres in radius. They make ke, ke, ke calls when fighting for their mate or territory.
The pheasants will often walk and forage for food (a diet of various fruit, leaves, vegetation, seeds and invertebrates) at the same time, in a manner similar to chickens, on the forest floor and mountain trails, especially on rainy and foggy days.
The breeding season of Mikado pheasants lasts from March to June. Mikado pheasants build their nests mainly with dead branches, fallen leaves, dry grass and feathers in tree holes or depressions under rocks. Females usually lay three to eight creamy-coloured eggs at one time and it is they who are solely responsible for the incubation of the eggs (which take about 26–28 days to hatch) and the nurture of fledglings, once they are born. The young are usually independent by six months the latest.
Status and conservation
There are some Mikado pheasants bred in captivity, but there are only about 10,000 individuals in the wild, particularly in the Yushan National Park. Heavy hunting pressure was a problem in the past, but is not a serious threat today. The Mikado pheasant is evaluated as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is listed on Appendix I of CITES.