Ex Libris: The Pheasants of the World


In 1951, the first edition of The Pheasants of the World rolled off the press and was quickly considered the "standard work on the subject". Dealing with the systematics, distribution, life history and propagation of this popular group of birds, the book was much sought after by pheasant breeders and those interested in pheasant conservation. I recall, in 1969, having a "glimpse" of the book after building a small pheasant collection. What a shame, I thought, that a book containing so much information was so difficult to obtain. Well, in 1977 a second and revised edition was printed and is now available at most book outlets that specialize in books on natural history topics.

Each major group of pheasant is introduced and followed with specific information on each species. For example, the tragopans are introduced with discussion as to the identification of the five species and one subspecies recognized. A key is provided for easy identification and some notes as to "General Habits and Captivity" also included. One large range map shows the distribution of all the tragopans. This general information is followed with a plate illustrating the five species. Each species is then discussed in detail. The two major categories which organize such details are "Description" and "General Habits and Captivity". At the end of each major section (eg. Tragopans, Koklass, Gallopheasants, etc.), Delacour includes some "Complementary Notes". In this section, he updates the reader as to the status of the group since the first edition was printed.

I found his advice as to diet most interesting. With the Satyr Tragopan, he advised, ''to replace insects, which are necessary to them, a mash made of egg, cured milk and biscuit meal to which vitamins have been added" should be provided three or four times a week. It would appear that regardless of the species of bird one is housing, a varied diet is important.

Regardless of whether you have one or a hundred pairs of pheasants, this book is of value. Fortunately it is (unlike the first edition) one that you can place on your own library shelf for use and enjoyment as often as you wish.•