SPECIES

Crested Fireback Lophura ignita Scientific name definitions

Guy M. Kirwan, Josep del Hoyo, Philip J. K. McGowan, Nigel Collar, David Christie, and Peter F. D. Boesman
Version: 2.0 — Published September 24, 2021

Appearance

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Identification

Males have a compact but fluffy crest , large blue face wattle , glossy blue-black plumage, and a rich orange-red back. Those populations on the Thai-Malay Peninsula and Sumatra have their underparts broadly streaked white, and a white tail, while those from Borneo possess orange lower underparts and a buff tail. Females are also crested and have blue facial skin, but with rufous-chestnut plumage, spotted black and white underparts, and plain brown upperparts.

Similar Species

If seen well, males are unmistakable in their range, whilst females superficially resemble a handful of other sympatric species. On Sumatra, given only poor views a female Crested Fireback might be mistaken for the equivalent sex of Salvadori’s Pheasant (Lophura inornata), although the latter has buffier brown plumage, red (not blue) facial skin, and no white streaking on the underparts.

On Borneo, both sexes share their general plumage color and blue facial skin with the scarce Bulwer’s Pheasant (Lophura bulweri); males of the latter have a much larger, cleaner white tail, and no orange feathering; females are uniform orange-chestnut with no white markings. Juvenile Crested Fireback is very similar to female Bulwer’s, and are best distinguished by the presence of black spots on the wing-coverts (although these can be difficult to see); otherwise, leg color, the more chestnut plumage and pale markings on the underparts are the most critical features for identification.

Plumages

Natal Down

Chicks have blackish-brown down above, and are buffy white and rufous below, with a rufous crown (1).

Juvenile

Plumage is like that of the adult female, but the wing coverts have large black spots. Young males are darker, reportedly becoming like a dull adult male in plumage after approximately 4–6 months (2, 3).

Immature

After 4–6 months, the plumage of immature Crested Fireback is described as a dull version of the adult by Madge et al. (2). Fischer et al. (3) described this plumage in more detail, noting that the head is crestless, with smaller wattles than the adult, and some fine chestnut vermiculations on the mantle. The tail is shorter and spurs are also shorter than those of adult males.

Adult

Female. The head is dull chestnut and sports an erect, dark chestnut crest comprising racquet-shaped feathers. The throat is white and the upper breast is dark chestnut with white streaks, becoming broader (giving a more scalloped effect) on the lower underparts. The vent is off white and the undertail coverts dark brown. The neck, nape and upperparts are all dark chestnut, the neck (especially the sides) often with some narrow whitish streaks. The tail is blackish brown with some chestnut vermiculations along the edges of the rectrices.

Male. The dark blue head bears an erect, dark blue crest comprising bare shafted, racket-shaped feathers (mean length 38 mm, n = 17; 3). The throat and upper breast are glossy blue black, contrasting sharply with the bright coppery chestnut lower breast and belly ; the vent and undertail coverts are blackish. Upperparts are glossy dark blue and the wing coverts have iridescent blue fringes. The primaries are dull blackish (or dull dark brown) and the lower back is coppery orange chestnut/maroon, contrasting with the almost blackish rump and uppertail coverts. The tail is graduated: the 2–3 central pairs of rectrices are rich buffish, with all of the remaining feathers dark blue to black.

Molts

Poorly known, with most information having to be interpreted from museum specimens and camera-trap studies. Post-juvenile molt in this species is probably complete (3), and Madge et al. (2) suggested that males attain a dull, adult-like plumage after just 4–6 months; after this molt, immature females may not be distinguishable from adult females (3). Molt duration in this species may not be as prolonged as in Bulwer’s Pheasant (Lophura bulweri), owing to the latter’s larger size and more complex ornaments.

On Borneo, principally known from a camera trap study (3), wherein older juveniles were found in June, while immature males were observed molting in March, June, July, and August. Adult females were molting in July and August, whilst adult males were in molt during May, July–September and December.

On the Thai-Malay Peninsula, of 30 specimens collected in all months excluding June and September, seven exhibited evidence wing molt in March, April, July and October–December, with no indications of seasonal progression (4).

Bare Parts

Bill

Generally pale in males , but reportedly more variable in females (3).

Iris and Facial Skin

Iris is red (5, 4, 2, 3). As is common to many species in Asia (see 6), both sexes of Crested Fireback have extensive facial wattles that are bright cobalt blue, but paler (and less extensive) in females.

Tarsi and Toes

Leg color of the male is variable (7, 3), from whitish to gray green, and sometimes pinkish. Spurs on the male are large (mean length 30 mm, n = 16) (3) and pale (5). Female have the legs usually pale brownish and sport no (or only rudimentary spurs) (3), contra the illustration in Phillipps and Phillipps (8).

Measurements

Linear Measurements

Overall length of males and females 61 cm and 51 cm, respectively (3).

Bornean birds: males 65–70 cm (tail 24–30 cm); females 56–57 cm (tail 15–19 cm).

Malayan birds: males ca. 70 cm (tail 24–29 cm); females 56–57 cm (tail 17–20 cm).

Linear measurements of the nominate subspecies, in mm, from Madge et al. (2):

Males

Females

Wing length

270–280

234–254

Tail length

245–260

156–177

Tarsus length

110–120

76

Additional data from Fischer et al. (3) on tail length (mean males 244 mm, females 182 mm) and spur length (mean males 29.5 mm, females 1.7 mm).

Mass

Males typically weigh approximately 1.81–2.5 kg (n = 9) and females 1.35–1.6 kg (n = 4) (4). See also Riley (5).

Recommended Citation

Kirwan, G. M., J. del Hoyo, P. J. K. McGowan, N. Collar, D. A. Christie, and P. F. D. Boesman (2021). Crested Fireback (Lophura ignita), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (B. K. Keeney, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.crefir1.02