Birds – Fire-backed Pheasants

The next small group to be considered comprises the Fire-backed Pheasants, which are so named from the fact that the lower back in most is a fiery bronze-red or bronze-gold. The Crestless Fire-backs (Acomus), of which there are three species, ranging from the southern Malay Peninsula to Sumatra and Borneo, are small Pheasants approximating twenty inches in length, with a short, laterally compressed or hen-like tail, a large, naked white patch on the sides of the head, and single-spurred legs. Practically nothing seems to be known regarding the habits of these birds, almost the only specimens being those produced by natives, though they are known to frequent the dense, damp forests. In two of the species (A. erythrophthalmus and A. pyronotus) the males have the general color of the plumage glossed with purplish and steel-blue, while the females are entirely black, glossed like the males; but in the Black-crested Fire-back (A. inornatus) of western Sumatra the males resemble the females of the other species, the whole plumage being black; the adult female of the latter is unknown.

In the Crested Fire-backs (Lophura) the males are provided with a full crest composed of bare shafts terminating in a bunch of plumes; they have also a naked patch on the sides of the head and in addition a large wattle on each side of the neck. The four species comprising the genus are much larger birds, enjoying practically the same distribution as the last. Their habits are but little known, the one about which we have the most information being the Malayan Crested Fire-back (L. rufa) of Siam, Tenasserim, the Malay Peninsula, and Sumatra. Mr. Davidson says, “These birds frequent the thick evergreen forests in small parties of five or six; they never come into the open, but confine them-selves to the forests, feeding on berries, tender leaves, and insects and grubs of all kinds, are very fond of scratching about after the manner of domestic poultry, and dusting themselves.” The general plumage of the male in this species is black, glossed with purplish blue, the lower back and rump being fiery bronzy red, and the middle tail-feathers white; the female is chestnut throughout.