At dawn, when the air was still misty, the constant sound of a rooster crowing could be heard coming from the front of the camp. When I went to investigate, I saw two birds staring at each other, one was the rooster that had been raised in the camp, and the other was a female forest pheasant, or Bornean crested fireback (Lophura ignita).
The female Bornean crested fireback is brown in colour with a short crest, blue facial skin, and spotted black-and-white lower body. The male of the species has a longer crest, bluish-black plumage, a reddish-brown rump, red iris, and blue facial skin. Its lower body is striped in white, resembling scales. This species of pheasant is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s ‘Red List’ of threatened species.
On that particular morning, the rooster and pheasant looked as though they wanted to approach each other, but differences seemed to keep them apart. The rooster returned to its coop, while the pheasant headed back into the forest.
The Bornean crested fireback lives in small groups, with only one male. It lives in dark forests, where it forages around fallen trees or scavenges and scratches under fruit trees, much like a domestic chicken. It is also a sprinter but is able to jump and fly in short bursts.
In the past, the Bornean crested fireback was regularly seen moving around on the forest floor. These days, its numbers are dwindling due to illegal hunting and rampant habitat destruction. Much of the natural habitat of this pheasant has been lost to logging, plantations, and other development projects that have encroached on its environment.
A decrease in Bornean crested fireback populations also impacts the forest ecosystem and biodiversity. Therefore, it is vital this species is protected through efforts to reduce poaching, safeguard its natural habitat, and raise public awareness on the importance of wildlife conservation.
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