By Kamna Mathur
Lucknow, April 6 : People at the Lucknow zoo are startled after learning about a Silver female pheasant that has started to show signs of gender change here. Many of the staff members are describing it as a "miracle".
The change in the bird was first noticed by a zookeeper who was simply awe-struck, as he never came across such a phenomena in 42 years of his service at the zoo.
"The physical traits are totally opposite to that of female's features. As you can see the male's features are white and its (this pheasant's) chest is black. Whereas the female is brown in colour, its appearance is not as pleasing as is of any male. This bird has started changing its colour to that of a male," said Siyaram, a caretaker of birds' enclosure at Lucknow zoo.
"If we have an extra female, we can keep them together to observe their activities and it remains to be seen in future," he added.
The 18-year-old silver pheasant that has become cynosure of all eyes last gave birth to three chicks in 1998-99 and since 2001-02 the bird had stopped laying eggs completely and developed certain changes.
After 2007, authorities witnessed that the bird had completely changed its physical features to that of a male pheasant.
The brown-coloured female bird changed its colour, assuming the near look of a male pheasant with white coloured feather on the wings and a black body, tails and crown.
But there has been no change in its height, as usually male pheasant are much taller in height.
According to the Director, it could be a hormonal change and the exact reason could only be determined after scientific research.
"Since 2006-07, the physical appearances had started to occur and I feel the reason behind it is the hormonal change in which the female hormones are suppressed whereas, the male hormones are activated. That's why it appears to look like a male," said Ranu Singh, Director of the Lucknow zoo.
"I feel it's genetically a female. Since we have seen, some cases in humans as well where old aged women develop male hormones leading to growth of facial hair. This is somewhat similar feature. It is very rare and not a regular feature at all," Singh added.
The Silver Pheasant is one of the 35 species of pheasant in 11 different genres. It is approximately 125cm long, white pheasant with bare red facial skin, red legs and glossy black below.
The male is adorned with white, long, patterned tail and black dropping crest on its crown. At least two years is needed to attain full male plumage. The female is an olive brown with black-tipped crest.
Pheasant are generally characterised by their strong sexual dimorphism, with males being highly ornate with bright colours and adornments such as wattles and long tails.
Males are usually larger than the females, and have longer tails.