In 1906, the Mikado pheasant, an endemic bird of Taiwan, was discovered as a new species by a British collector. As the creation of this new species was based solely on the examination of tail feathers, it generated excitement among ornithologists and aviculturists, sparking a series of expeditions to collect complete specimens. By following the trajectory of these endeavors and subsequent attempts to reclassify, propagate, and protect the bird, this article explores the power and performativity of scientific naming in both global and colonial contexts. The act of writing and publishing a species description is performative in that it creates a new species by assigning a scientific name that allows it to gain recognition within the scientific community and beyond. It also served to create and maintain the ornithological community—the idealized virtual community of ornithologists, bird collectors, and aviculturists. The history of the Mikado pheasant is part of a larger scientific effort to establish the comprehensive knowledge of the family Phasianidae, which motivated aspiring Japanese ornithologists to exert their acquired knowledge over the avifauna of the Japanese empire. These processes interacted during a time when zoological nomenclature was becoming accessible to non-Western zoologists. The discovery of the Mikado pheasant was the result of a colonial enterprise involving the British and Japanese empires, which converged on the interior of Taiwan and involved the Indigenous people who had settled in the mountain regions. The enduring legacy of the Mikado pheasant’s naming still resonates today.

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