Crested fireback -- 凤冠火背鹇 (Lophura ignita)

Male crested fireback, head detail
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Crested fireback fact file

Crested fireback description

GenusLophura (1)

Fireback pheasants are widely admired for their impressive facial decorations, which play an important role in courtship displays. The vivid blue facial wattles of the crested fireback are particularly striking, and are coupled in the male with a dark, purplish-blue plumage and a distinctive, bushy black crest (4). The central tail feathers are contrastingly coloured, normally white in the Sumatran and Malayan races, L. i. rufa and L. i. macartneyi, and cinnamon-buff in the subspecies from Borneo, L. i. ignita and L. i. nobilis. The lower back is a deep red, and while Bornean males have a coppery-chestnut abdomen, the Malayan and Sumatran male’s is usually blue-black with white streaks, although there are various colour varieties in L. i. macartneyi (4) (5). Females have a brownish plumage with a bushy brown crest and white stripes and scaling on their underparts (5).

Lophura rufa, Phasianus ignitus, Phasianus rufus.
Faisán de Carúncula Azul Crestado, Faisán Noble.
Male length: 65 – 70 cm (2)
Male tail length: 24 – 30 cm (2)
Female length: 56 – 57 cm (2)
Female tail length: 15 – 19 cm (2)
Male weight: 1812 – 2605 g (2)
Female weight: c. 1600 g (2)

Crested fireback biology

Despite its relatively wide distribution, little is known about the biology of this colourful pheasant in the wild (2). The diet in the wild is known to include leaves, seeds, figs and insects, but may be far more diverse. The breeding season has not been accurately determined, but eggs have been collected in April, and recently hatched chicks have been collected in July on Borneo (2). Clutch size is thought to be four to eight eggs, which are incubated for 24 days in captivity (2) (4). Although males attain adult plumage in their first year, they are not fully mature until their third (4).


Crested fireback range

Known from the Malay Peninsula (south Thailand, extreme south Myanmar, and Peninsula Malaysia), Sumatra (Indonesia), and Borneo, including Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysia), and Kalimantan (Indonesia), although there are no recent records from Myanmar, and the species is rare in peninsula Thailand (6). Subspecies: the lesser Bornean crested fireback (L. i. ignita), is native to Kalimantan in southern Borneo, as well as Bangka Island off southeast Sumatra; the greater Bornean crested fireback (L. i. nobilis) is from Sarawak and Sabah in northern Borneo; the Malayan or Vieillott’s crested fireback (L. i. rufa) has the broadest range on the Malay peninsula and much of Sumatra (except southeast); and Delacour’s crested fireback (L. i. macartneyi) is found in southeast Sumatra (2) (4).


Crested fireback habitat

A lowland forest specialist that has also been recorded in logged, disturbed and secondary forest, found from sea level up to 1,000 metres or more above sea level in some localities (2) (6).


Crested fireback status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed on Appendix III of CITES in Malaysia (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Crested fireback threats

The overall population of crested firebacks may total over 100,000 individuals, but is continuously declining due to rapid rates of deforestation, hunting and snaring (2) (6). This pheasant’s lowland habitat is severely threatened in many areas by logging for timber production and demands for agricultural land (2), and although the species can tolerate selective logging, the rapid rate of forest clearance is cause for considerable concern (6). In addition, this colourful pheasant is threatened by local hunting for food and also for sport (5).


Crested fireback conservation

Its listing on Appendix III of CITES by Malaysia limits and regulates international trade in this species from the country (3). The crested fireback also occurs in several protected areas, but is not protected by Indonesian law (2).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more information on the crested fireback see:

  • del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World - New World Vultures To Guineafowl. Vol. 2. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  • The World Pheasant Association (WPA):

For more information on this and other bird species please see:



Authenticated (23/01/2007) by John Corder, Vice President of the World Pheasant Association, and Chairman of the European Conservation Breeding Group of the World Pheasant Association.



A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Bare fleshy skin that hangs from the bill, throat or eye of birds.


  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2008)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World - New World Vultures To Guineafowl. Vol. 2. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (May, 2006)
  4. Dedicated to the Aviculture and Conservation of the World’s Galliformes (August, 2006)
  5. Delacour, J. (1951) The Pheasants of the World. Country Life Ltd., London.
  6. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

Image credit

Male crested fireback, head detail  
Male crested fireback, head detail

© Terry Whittaker /

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