Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Argus Pheasant

Argus Pheasant (Argus giganteus), a beautiful Oriental game-bird belonging to that division of the pheasant family which contains the peafowl and other birds with elongated tails and ocelli (or eye-like markings) on the plumage. The bill is straight, except at the extremity, where it is curved; nostrils in the middle of the upper mandible; head, cheeks, and neck nearly naked; legs long, slender, and without spurs; tail of twelve feathers, in the male the two middle ones are enormously developed and the secondary quills are much longer than the primaries. The plumage is of various shades of brown, and the beautifully marked secondaries and the display of the male bird before the hen are thus described by Darwin (Descent of Man, chap, xiii.): "Each is ornamented with a row of from twenty to twenty-three ocelli, above an inch in diameter. These feathers are also elegantly marked with oblique stripes and rows of spots of a dark colour like those on the skin of a tiger and leopard combined. These beautiful ornaments are hidden until the male shows himself off before the female. He then erects his tail and expands his wing-feathers into a great, almost upright circular fan or shield, which is carried in front of the body. The neck and head are held on one side, so that they are concealed by the fan; but the bird, in order to see the female, before whom he is displaying himself, sometimes pushes his head between two of the long wing-feathers." It is probable that the male can also peep at the female on one side, beyond the margin of the fan. Darwin considered these marvellous markings, which he calls "ball-and-socket ornaments," and from which the genus is named Argus, to have been developed by sexual selection. But beauty has been gained at the expense of usefulness, for the extraordinary development of the secondary feathers has almost deprived the bird of the power of flight. The Argus pheasant is a native of Sumatra and Malacca, and is said to range into China. There is another species, Gray's Argus (A.gragi), of which little is known, confined to Borneo.