(1910) Catreus wallichii.
THE CHEER PHEASANT.
Phasianus wallichii Hardw., Trans. Linn. Soc, xv, p. 166 (1827) (Almorah). Catreus wallichi. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 82,
Vernacular names. Kahir, Chihir (Nepal); Cheer (Kuman, Garhwal and further West) : Bunchil, Bonchil, Herril (Hills N. of Mussoorie); Chummun, Chaman (Chamba, Kulu, etc.); Reear (Karnar, Drawa, Pir, Punjab and Kaji Nag); Rehar (Darg, N. W. E.).
Description.— Adult male. Top of head and crest blackish-brown, edged paler and tipped with grey; upper nape the same but with the grey tips larger: line below bare orbital space and ear-coverts hair-brown, almost black next the bill; chin, throat and neck greyish-white, faintly centred with brown streaks and barred with black on the lower nape and hind-neck; scapulars and lesser wing-coverts barred ashy-grey and black, narrowly fringed with grey and the subterminal black bar glossed with green ; upper tail-coverts and tail pale buffy-grey, purer grey at the tip, barred broadly with mottled black and dark ashy-grey; outer tail-feathers with chestnut replacing the grey on the inner webs; quills brown, the outermost primaries edged and barred with pale buff on the outer webs and mottled and barred on the inner web, mottlings increasing on the inner secondaries ; these have a broad subterminal bar of black and less well-defined second bar ; greater and median wing-coverts more buff, sometimes almost rufous; below greyish-white, more or less tinged posteriorly with rufous buff; fore-neck and breast with concealed bars which become very conspicuous on the lower breast and flanks; the feathers of the breast also have faint brown stripes; centre of abdomen blackish, more or less mottled with buff-rufous ; vent and under tail-coverts rufous; thigh-coverts dull rufous-buff.
Colours of soft parts. Iris golden-hazel to orange-brown; orbital skin crimson or crimson-scarlet; bill pale yellowish-brown, rarely pale brownish- or bluish-horny ; legs plumbeous or greyish-brown, sometimes fleshy-brown; toes paler.
Measurements. Wing 235 to 269 mm.; tail 388 to 584 mm.; tarsus 74 to 78 mm. ; spur about 12.5 mm.; culmen about 25 to 29 mm.; crest up to 91 mm.
Female. Head like the male but with ochre edges to the feathers; hind-neck and nape greyish-white with bold black centres; mantle pale chestnut, each feather cream-shafted, edged grey and with bold black bars ; lower back and rump ashy-brown mottled with black and a little buff; tail and upper tail-coverts with alternate bands of mottled rufous and black and bolder bars of black and buff; longer tail-coverts with more black and less buff; primaries brown barred with buff on the outer and with chestnut on the inner webs ; secondaries mottled black and chestnut-brown with four broad bars of creamy-buff, edged above and below with black; greater and median coverts mottled black and chestnut-buff with broad tips of creamy-buff; chin, throat and fore-neck creamy white; breast black, the feathers edged and streaked with white; remaining lower plumage pale chestnut, edged with creamy-buff; flanks anteriorly like the breast, posteriorly like the abdomen ; under tail-coverts pale rufous, slightly mottled with brown ; facial skin brick-red.
Measurements. Wing 223 to 245 mm.; tail 317 to 468 mm. Weight: males, 2 lb. 10 oz. to 3 lb. 7 oz., rarely 4 lb. (Rattray); females, 2 lb. to 2 lb. 12 oz.
Distribution. The Himalayas from Hazara on the North-West Frontier to Simla States, Tehri Grarhwal and West Nepal. How far it penetrates to East Nepal is not known but probably right up to Sikkim, for in 1894 some live birds were brought into Darjiling for sale by Nepalese. In some parts of Kashmir it is not uncommon, Col. H. L. Haughton having shot them in Karnar and Darwa as also at Pir Panjal and Kaji Nag.
Nidification. This Pheasant breeds from April to June between 5,000 and 9,000 feet, occasionally both higher and lower. They make no nests but lay their eggs on the ground, selecting very rough and broken ground at the foot of cliffs or on precipitous rocky hills and always in undergrowth where they are most difficult to find. The cock-birds are monogamous and assist the hens in the care of the young. The broods number six to fourteen, generally eight to ten. The eggs are a very pale yellow-grey stone-colour, often lightly freckled at the larger end with reddish, the spots sometimes scattered over the whole egg. Forty-eight eggs average 53.4 x 39.3 mm.: maxima 56.2 x 40.1 and 56.0 x 40.6 mm.; minima 49.9 x 38.2 and 54.0 x 36.8 mm.
Habits. The Cheer may be always found between 6,000 and 9,000 feet, wandering down to 4,000 in Winter and up to 11,000 feet in Summer. They haunt the wildest country and though not frequenting the deepest forest they keep to precipitous ravines, broken hill-sides and cliffs where there is ample forest of a light, rather stunted character, with dense undergrowth in the pockets and hollows ; at other times they resort to hill-sides covered with long grass and scattered oak-forest. They consort in small coveys and after they have been once flushed are very hard to force to fly a second time, either trusting to their legs to run or squatting close hidden until the beaters have passed. Mountaineer syllabifies their fine crow as " chir-a-pic cheer-a-pic chir chir chirwa chirwa " and they have also chuckling cries. They feed on roots, grubs, insects, seeds and berries and are themselves excellent for the table, whilst from the point of sport they rank with the best, having great speed on the wing and the usual Indian Pheasant habit of hurling themselves headlong downhill.
* Game-birds of India' Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. Journal, vol. xxv, pt. 4, p. 521 (1918). P. meyeri and P. xanthospila might possibly occur within the limits of this work and full descriptions will be found in the journal above quoted.