60. THE CHEER-PHEASANT.
Catreus wallichii, (Hardwicke).
MALE:—Mantle pale buff, barred with black and pale blue bands.
FEMALE :—Mantle chestnut, each feather with a pair of black oval spots.
Vernacular Names:-Kahir, Chihir, Nepal ; Cheer, Kumaon, Garhwal; Bunchil, Boinchil, Herril, Hills north of Mussooree ; Chummun, Chaman, Chamba, Kulu, etc.
The Cheer-Pheasant inhabits the lower ranges of the Himalayas from the valley of Nepal to Chamba. I cannot discover that this Pheasant has been met with farther east or west of these limits, but it probably may have a larger range. According to season this bird lives at elevations varying from 4000 to 10,000 feet.
For the habits of this very fine Pheasant we must again go to " Mountaineer." He says :—" It is an inhabitant of the lower and intermediate ranges, seldom found at very high elevations and never approaching the limits of forest. Though far from being rare, fewer perhaps are met with than of any other kind, unless it is particularly sought for, always excepting the Jewar. The reason of this may be that the general character of the ground where they resort is not so inviting in appearance to the sportsman as other places; besides, they are everywhere confined to particular localities, and are not like the rest scattered indiscriminately over almost every part of the regions they inhabit. Their haunts are on grassy hills, with a scattered forest of oak and small patches of underwood, hills covered with the common pine, near the sites of deserted villages, old cowsheds, and the long grass amongst precipices and broken ground. They are seldom found on hills entirely destitute of trees or jungle, or in the opposite extreme of deep shady forest; in the lower ranges they keep near the tops of the hills, or about the middle, and are seldom found in the valleys or deep ravines. Farther in the interior, they are generally low down, often in the immediate vicinity of the villages; except in the breeding season, when each pair seek a spot to perform the business of incubation, they congregate Cheer-Pheasants.
in flocks of from five or six to ten or fifteen, and seldom more than two or three lots inhabit the same hill. They wander about a good deal on the particular hill where they are located, but not beyond certain boundaries, remaining about one spot for several days or weeks, then shifting to another, but never entirely abandoning the place, and year after year may to a certainty be found in some quarter of it. .... Both males and females crow at daybreak and dusk, and in cloudy weather sometimes during the day. The crow is loud and singular, and when there is nothing to interrupt the sound, may be heard for at least a mile. It is something like the words chir a pir, chir a pir, chir chir, chirwa, chirwa, but a good deal varied ; it is often begun before complete daylight, and in spring, when the birds are numerous, it invariably ushers in the day. In this respect it may rival the domestic cock. When pairing and scattered about, the crow is often kept up for near half an hour, first from one quarter, then another, and now and then all seem to join in as a chorus. At other times it seldom lasts more than five or ten minutes. The Cheer-Pheasant feeds chiefly on roots, for which it digs holes in the ground; grubs, insects, seeds and berries, and, if near cultivated fields, several kinds of grain form a portion; it does not eat grass or leaves like all the rest of our Pheasants. It is easy to rear in confinement, and might without diffi¬culty be naturalised in England, if it would stand the long frosts and snows of severe winters, which I imagine is rather doubtful. The female makes her nest in the grass or amongst low bushes, and lays from nine to fourteen eggs of a dull white and rather small for so large a bird. They are hatched about the end of May or beginning of June. Both male and female keep with the young brood and seem very solicitous for their safety,"
The eggs have a slight gloss and are of a pale buff colour with, generally, one or the other end speckled with reddish brown ; but some eggs are quite plain. They measure from 2.o5 to 2.22 in length and from 1.47 to 1.56 in breadth.
The male has the crown and crest brown, the feathers tipped with grey. The throat and a ring round the neck are whitish. The mantle, the back and the smaller wing-coverts are pale buff barred with black, each feather with a narrow grey tip and a bar of pale blue. The Cheer-Pheasants. remaining visible portions of the closed wings are largely bright buff marked with black. The rump is chestnut, barred with black. The tail is buff, broadly barred with mixed black and chestnut. The lower plumage is pale buff, irregularly barred with black.
In the female the feathers of the crown and crest are edged with buff. The sides and back of the neck are black with whitish margins. The mantle is chestnut, each feather with a pair of black oval spots. The remainder of the upper plumage is a mixture of black, pale buff and rufous, the feathers of the mantle, of the back and of the wings with a pale shaft-streak. The tail is buff barred and mottled with black and rufous. The throat is whitish, the breast black, each feather of the latter part edged with buff, and the belly is chestnut, the feathers edged paler.
Length of male up to 40; wing about 10; tail up to 23. Length of female up to 30; wing about 9; tail up to 15. Legs plumbeous brown ; irides reddish ; bill horny brown; naked facial skin crimson. Weight up to 3 1/2 lb.