Bulwer’s Pheasant: Zoo

ambience: Bulwer’s pheasant call


When it’s mating season in the bird area of the Bronx Zoo, love is in the air. In fact, you can even hear it being played over the loudspeakers. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. The sound we’re listening to is the mating call of a Bulwer’s pheasant, a strikingly beautiful bird, native to Borneo. Two of them, a female and a male, now live at the Bronx Zoo. But Bulwer’s pheasants do not reproduce well in captivity. John Rowden, Assistant Curator of the Zoo’s bird department, went to Borneo to learn about these birds in the wild. He says that during the mating season, male Bulwer’s pheasants will gather in the same area and produce this call while displaying by spreading their white tail feathers and enlarging their bright blue facial wattles.

“Male animals may be displaying for each other. You know, they’re not necessarily focused on females. The females will come in and will sample the males and will mate with a male.”

Although the male Bulwer’s pheasants are near each other during their mating display in the wild, they place themselves where they cannot see each other.

“What I tried to do when I came back was to mimic that situation here at the zoo by playing the display vocalizations of the males over the public address system, which is tied into speakers where they’re housed. And so I could actually simulate that there are more males around, both to help stimulate the males to think oh, well there’s some competition here and also to let the female know oh, well there are some options here.”

Last summer, the calls were played for about an hour at sunrise and sunset, but the birds didn’t respond by mating. The Zoo will try the “playback” experiment again next summer — with a special added attraction. By then, a new female Bulwer’s pheasant will be added to the group. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation.


Bulwer's Pheasant: Zoo

When it's mating season in the bird area of the Bronx Zoo, love is in the air. In fact, you can even hear it being played over the loudspeakers.
Air Date:01/15/2001
Scientist:
Transcript:

ambience: Bulwer's pheasant call


When it's mating season in the bird area of the Bronx Zoo, love is in the air. In fact, you can even hear it being played over the loudspeakers. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. The sound we're listening to is the mating call of a Bulwer's pheasant, a strikingly beautiful bird, native to Borneo. Two of them, a female and a male, now live at the Bronx Zoo. But Bulwer's pheasants do not reproduce well in captivity. John Rowden, Assistant Curator of the Zoo's bird department, went to Borneo to learn about these birds in the wild. He says that during the mating season, male Bulwer's pheasants will gather in the same area and produce this call while displaying by spreading their white tail feathers and enlarging their bright blue facial wattles.

"Male animals may be displaying for each other. You know, they're not necessarily focused on females. The females will come in and will sample the males and will mate with a male."

Although the male Bulwer's pheasants are near each other during their mating display in the wild, they place themselves where they cannot see each other.

"What I tried to do when I came back was to mimic that situation here at the zoo by playing the display vocalizations of the males over the public address system, which is tied into speakers where they're housed. And so I could actually simulate that there are more males around, both to help stimulate the males to think oh, well there's some competition here and also to let the female know oh, well there are some options here."

Last summer, the calls were played for about an hour at sunrise and sunset, but the birds didn't respond by mating. The Zoo will try the "playback" experiment again next summer -- with a special added attraction. By then, a new female Bulwer's pheasant will be added to the group. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation.