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Meet The National Bird of Thailand, The Siamese Fireback

Thailand, often referred to as the “Land of Smiles,” is a country that boasts rich history, stunning landscapes, and a myriad of unique species.

Among them is the mesmerizing Siamese fireback, a bird that not only captures the essence of Thai wilderness but also resonates deeply with the nation’s cultural and historical heritage.

Have you ever wondered about the significance behind the name of this magnificent pheasant or the fascinating story of how it got its scientific name? Dive in, and you’ll uncover these secrets and more.

Quick Info About The Siamese Fireback

Scientific Name:Lophura diardi
Average Size:Male: 80 cm (31 in), Female: 60 cm (23 in)
Average Weight:Male: 1420 g (3.1 lbs), Female: 680-1025 g (1.5-2.3 lbs)
Average Lifespan:Around 5 years in the wild
Geographical Range:Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam
Habitat:Lowland and evergreen forests
Conservation Status:Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

Meet The Siamese Fireback, National Bird of Thailand

Often referred to as Diard’s fireback, the Siamese fireback stands out with its commanding presence. This relatively large pheasant, measuring about 80 cm (31 in) in length, showcases a stunning contrast of colors and features.

Males possess a grey plumage complemented with an expansive facial caruncle. Their crimson legs and feet provide a striking contrast, and their ornamental black crest feathers only add to their majestic appearance.

The male’s reddish-brown iris and the long, curved blackish tail also accentuate its beauty. Conversely, the females are modestly adorned in brown, with only their blackish wing and tail feathers distinguishing them.

In the Thai wilderness, the Siamese fireback has a significant ecological role. Primarily ground-dwelling, these birds forage for seeds, insects, and small creatures. While their exact position in the food chain may vary, larger predators, such as leopards or large birds of prey, could pose a threat.

The Siamese fireback doesn’t merely hold ecological significance; it’s also deeply embedded in the country’s ethos. As the national bird, it embodies the spirit of Thailand, mirroring the nation’s vibrancy, resilience, and enduring allure.

Thailand Siamese Fireback Source: Wikimedia Commons

Where Does The Siamese Fireback Live?

Nestled within the lowland tropical forests of Southeast Asia, the Siamese fireback finds its home. Ranging across countries like Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, this bird thrives in the dense undergrowth of these vibrant forests, often near water sources.

Within Thailand, it’s primarily distributed in forested regions, where the climate is tropical, characterized by a mix of heavy monsoons and dry spells. The luxuriant green canopy of these woods offers the ideal habitat, providing both food and shelter, as well as protection from potential threats.

Why and When Did The Siamese Fireback Become The National Bird of Thailand?

A symbol of elegance, resilience, and cultural significance, the Siamese fireback stands proudly as Thailand’s national bird. In 1985, the Thai Cabinet, inspired by a proposal from the country’s Wildlife Conservation Bureau, recognized the Siamese fireback as the nation’s emblematic bird.

The choice was far from arbitrary. Rooted in Thai folklore, literature, and history, this bird is more than just a feathered resident of the nation.

Thai literature, such as the “Lilit Phra Lo,” emphasizes the bird’s mythical allure, where the protagonist, Phra Lo, is captivated by the pheasant, leading him on an enchanting journey to meet two sisters, his eventual lovers. This blend of cultural and historical importance has solidified the Siamese fireback’s role in Thailand’s national identity.

While there have been concerns over the declining numbers of the Siamese fireback due to extensive logging, population growth, and hunting, there hasn’t been significant controversy regarding its designation as the national symbol. Instead, its representation often underscores the importance of conservation and the value of preserving the nation’s rich biodiversity.

Where is The Siamese Fireback Featured in Thailand?

The prestige of the Siamese fireback is prominently displayed in Thailand’s postal stamps, where it serves as a proud reminder of the country’s rich avian biodiversity.

These stamps, circulated nationwide, showcase the bird’s majestic features and its significance as a national emblem. Furthermore, it’s frequently a highlighted attraction on bird-watching tours, drawing both locals and tourists alike to witness its beauty in its natural habitat.

While it might not be featured on the country’s flag or currency, the Siamese fireback’s influence permeates various facets of Thai culture, from literature to conservation efforts.

Names of The Siamese Fireback

This majestic pheasant, the Siamese fireback, is also commonly referred to as Diard’s fireback, a tribute to the French naturalist Pierre-Médard Diard.

In Thailand, it’s known by its local name, Kai Fah Phaya Lo (Thai: ไก่ฟ้าพญาลอ), which translates to “Lord Lo’s pheasant”. This name has its origins in the Thai folk literature, “Lilit Phra Lo,” emphasizing its significance in cultural narratives.

The bird’s scientific nomenclature, Lophura diardi, also commemorates Diard, highlighting his contributions to ornithology and the study of Southeast Asian fauna.

Is The Siamese Fireback Endangered?

The Siamese fireback has experienced fluctuations in its conservation status over the years. Initially assessed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List due to factors like habitat loss and overhunting, its status has since been updated to Least Concern. That said, the bird is not without its challenges.

Extensive logging, rapid population growth, and large-scale hunting and snaring have been significant threats to the Siamese fireback’s population. On a brighter note, there have been concerted efforts across countries to conserve this species.

The Pheasant and Waterfowl Society in Australia and the Allandoo Pheasantry Society in Scotland are actively involved in preserving the species.

Additionally, national parks in Vietnam and Laos have granted protection to the Siamese fireback, ensuring a sanctuary for these birds amidst a rapidly changing landscape.

Interesting Facts About The Siamese Fireback

  1. French Connection: The Siamese fireback was introduced to the western world when French naturalist Pierre-Médard Diard presented a pair to Napoleon III of France in 1862.
  2. Named by Napoleon’s Nephew: Its scientific name was christened by Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a keen ornithologist and the nephew of Emperor Napoleon I of France.
  3. Cultural Symbol: Beyond being a national bird, the Siamese fireback’s influence is deeply rooted in Thai literature. The bird plays a pivotal role in the folklore “Lilit Phra Lo,” underscoring its cultural importance.
  4. Distinct Appearance: One of the most striking features of the male Siamese fireback is its ornamental black crest feathers, which contrast vividly with its crimson legs and extensive facial caruncle.
  5. A Bird of Southeast Asia: While it is the national bird of Thailand, the Siamese fireback also finds its habitat in neighboring countries like Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, showcasing its importance in the region’s biodiversity.

Other Beautiful Birds Native To Thailand

Thailand, with its diverse habitats, is home to a myriad of spectacular birds. Some of the other beautiful birds that can be spotted in the country are:

  • Coppersmith Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala): Recognized by its crimson forehead and throat, this small green barbet is often heard before it’s seen, thanks to its metronomic call that sounds like a coppersmith striking metal.
  • Asian Fairy-bluebird (Irena puella): Exhibiting a vibrant blue hue, the males of this species are particularly eye-catching, while females are a brilliant shade of turquoise.
  • Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis): This bright yellow bird with a distinguishing black nape is not only a sight to behold but its melodic whistles also add a beautiful soundtrack to Thailand’s forests.
  • Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus): A relative of the Indian peacock, the Green Peafowl showcases a dazzling display of iridescent hues during its courtship dance.
  • Hoopoe (Upupa epops): With its unique crown of feathers and its long curved beak, the Hoopoe is unmistakable and is often spotted foraging on the ground for insects.

What Is Another National Animal of Thailand?

While the Siamese fireback holds the title of Thailand’s national bird, the Thai elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) is the country’s revered national animal. Historically used in warfare, logging, and ceremonial purposes, the elephant has deep-rooted significance in Thai culture and history.

The elephant’s symbolic importance is also evident in religion, where it is associated with both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. The white elephant, in particular, is deemed sacred and a symbol of royal power; hence, Thailand’s flag once featured a white elephant on a red background.

The conservation of the Thai elephant has been a major focus due to the decline in its numbers, primarily because of habitat loss and poaching.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Siamese fireback the national bird of Thailand?

The Siamese fireback is not only native to Thailand but also holds significant cultural and historical value in the country, being referenced in Thai literature and history.

How many Siamese firebacks are left in the wild?

There are an estimated 5,000 Siamese firebacks in Thailand. However, the exact number can vary due to factors like habitat loss and hunting.

What efforts are being made to conserve the Siamese fireback?

Several organizations, including the Pheasant and Waterfowl Society in Australia and the Allandoo Pheasantry Society in Scotland, are working towards their conservation. Moreover, the bird is protected in national parks across Vietnam and Laos.

Can the Siamese fireback be found in other countries apart from Thailand?

Yes, apart from Thailand, the Siamese fireback can also be found in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

What is the significance of the name “Diard’s fireback” for the Siamese fireback?

The name “Diard’s fireback” is a tribute to the French naturalist Pierre-Médard Diard, who introduced the bird to the Western world and made significant contributions to the study of Southeast Asian fauna.

Other National Symbols of Thailand

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