National Park Even though a number of nests have been found by chance by people, all previous efforts by researchers failed to uncover a nest. The well-hidden nature of the nest, the beautiful camouglage of the female’s plumage, and the secretive nature of her behavior all contribute to make this discovery impossible without the aid of radio telemetry. The nests themselves are usually contructed with grass on the outside, lined with some dry leaves and feathers.
Swinhoe’s Pheasant nests are in dark and obscure locations, generally under some large shelter, such as fallen log, rock, or overhang in hardwood or mixed forests. All known nests are in places that are safe and well-sheltered from rain. Ground nests were found on small depressions on slopes often as steep as 50-60 degrees. Above the nest was dense undergrowth, with thorny vegetation or ferns hanging down, making the nest virtually impossible to see from the outside. Some nests are entirely covered by dense miscanthus grass on steep slopes, in conifer plantations with no tall trees. A number of these nest were discovered when workers were cutting grass in the plantations and flushed the females. Some nests are on trees, either in a safe depression, or well hidden by epiphytes.
Normal clutch size for Swinhoe’s Pheasants is 3-6eggs. In captivity it takes 25-28 days for the eggs to hatch, and the young hatch out within two or three days. An observer gave interesting reports about how the chicks leave their nests on trees. From a nest that was not too high up, he saw them hop down one by one after their mother. From another nest that was several meters above the ground, he saw the mother hop out of the nest with all her young tucked under her wings. Shortly before reaching the ground, she opened her wings to break her fall, and all the young fell out. But by then they were already fairly close to the ground thus they landed safely. This observation took place in an aviary and its applicability in nature needs to be evaluated.
Hatchings are covered in tan colored down, which is changed into juvenile feathers at about three weeks of age. They are now in the coloration of female pheasants. This plumage is retained until the following winter, when young males start molting into the dark blue of adult males. Thus in winter or very early spring, it is possible to see subadult males in mottled blue/brown plumage. But even before this stage, one can always separate young males from young females by examining their legs. Those with small spurs are the males.
Subadult pheasants can frequently be seen foraging in small flocks in the vicinity of their mothers. However, once they reach about two thirds the size of adult females, they seem to have generally gained independence. They usually move about alone, and are rarely seen with adult females. Adult males appeaing together with juveniles of any age is a rare sight. There is no information about the amount of time it takes a wild Swinhoe’s Pheasants to mature into adulthood. However, given the similarity of this species to domestic chicken, young Swinhoe’s probably do join the breeding population in one year.