The Great Argus pheasant is one of the most spectacular, but also most elusive birds in Borneo. I have been doing fieldwork in the rainforest of Gunung Palung for over thirty years, and have spent a sum total of over five years of my life in the forest there. Yet I have only seen a Great Argus with my own eyes once. Nonetheless, I had a dream of capturing images of this bird performing its courtship display.
Why did I think it was even possible to photograph such a rare and elusive bird? The reason is that male Argus choose a small clearing in the forest, and clear some of the leave to make a display arena. With enough searching in areas where we heard Argus calling, we were able to locate a number of these courts. We then monitored them with trail cameras to see which ones were active. Finally, using modern digital cameras in waterproof housings connected to infra-red triggers (which we call “camera traps”), we “staked out” these courts and hoped to capture footage of displaying males.
As it turned out, Argus male frequent their courts much less regularly than we expected, but never the less, as you can see in the images below, we were ultimately successful! Read on below to learn more about the efforts it took over two years to capture footage for the full behavioral sequence in the recent BBC series “The Mating Game”. As narrator David Attenborough says in his interview about the film on the BBC website (HERE), “I’m sure it’s the first time its been filmed in the wild”.