48. THE BLOOD PHEASANT.
Ithagenes cruentus, (Hardwicke).
With a crest of soft, uniformly-narrow feathers, 1 1/2 or more in length. Tail of 14 feathers.
MALE : —With the crest-feathers grey, streaked with buff.
FEMALE:—With the crest-feathers wholly slate-colour.
Vernacular Names:— Chilmeah, Chilme, Scrimen, Selmung, Nepal; Same, Semo, Soomong Pho, Sikhim.
The Blood-Pheasant occurs at high altitudes throughout Nepal, Sikhim and, according to Messrs. Hume and Marshall, Western Bhutan. Mr. Mandelli procured it in Tibet, probably just beyond native Sikhim.
Dr. W. T. Blanford, who observed this species in Sikhim, says, with reference to its habits: " All that I saw were in the pine forests around Yeomatoung, where they were tolerably abundant. They rarely take flight even when fired at, but run away and often take refuge on branches of trees. I have shot five or six out of one flock by following them up; they usually escape up hill, and if, as frequently takes place, the flock has been scattered, after a few minutes they commence calling with a peculiar long cry, something like the squeal of a kite. The only other note I heard was a short monosyllabic note of alarm ; I have heard a bird utter this when sitting on a branch within twenty yards of me." He adds that the birds were ex¬cellent eating, probably because at the season when he shot them they were not feeding upon pine or juniper.
Dr. Hooker, as quoted by Dr. Jerdon, remarks : " This, the boldest of the Alpine birds of its kind, frequents the mountain ranges of Nepal and Sikhim, at an elevation varying from 10,000 to 14,000 feet, and is very abundant in many of the valleys, among the forests of Pine (Abies webbiana) and Juniper. It seldom or never crows, but emits a weak cackling noise. When put up, it takes a very short flight and then runs to shelter. During winter it appears to burrow under or in holes amongst the snow, for I have snared it in January in regions thickly covered with snow, at an altitude of 12,000 feet. I have seen the young in May. The principal food of the bird consisting of the tops of the pine and juniper in spring, and the berries of the latter in autumn and winter, its flesh has always a very strong flavour, and is, moreover, uncommonly tough; it was, however, the only bird I obtained at those great elevations in tolerable abundance for food, and that not very frequently. The Bhoteas say that it acquires an additional spur every year; certain it is that they are more numerous than in any other bird, and that they are not alike on both legs. I could not discover the' cause of this difference, neither could I learn if they were produced at different times. I believe that "five on one leg, and four on the other, is the greatest number I have observed."
The eggs of this species are not known. Those of an allied Chinese species are thickly speckled with reddish brown.
The male has the forehead, the space between the eye and the bill, and a broad circle round the eye black, the latter intermingled with some crimson. The crown of the head is buff and the crest-feathers are grey, each feather with a buff streak down the centre. The hindneck and the mantle are deep grey, each feather with a white shaft-streak. The remaining upper plumage is deep grey, each feather with a narrow stripe of pale green bounded on either side by a black stripe, and many of the tail-coverts with broad crimson margins. The first ten quills of the wing are brown, each with a white shaft-streak which becomes broader near the tip of the feather. The tail-feathers are pale grey, becoming black at the base, and each feather margined with crimson. The chin and throat are crimson, most of the feathers with yellowish tips and shafts. The sides of the neck and a gorget under the throat are green, each feather margined with black. The lower plumage is pale green, each feather margined darker on both sides and the breast more or less blotched with crimson. The feathers under the tail are crimson tipped with yellow.
The female has the forehead and the front part of the crown, with the sides of the head, rather bright ferruginous. The crest and the hindneck are slate-colour. The whole upper plumage and closed wings are reddish brown, very finely vermiculated all over with dark brown or black. The tail is dark brown, a good deal mottled with reddish brown. The first ten quills of the wing are brown with darker shafts. The chin and throat are ferruginous, and the whole lower plumage is reddish brown mottled and vermiculated on almost every part with dark brown.
Length of male about 18; wing 8 1/2; tail about 6 1/2. Length of female about 16 ; wing nearly 8 ; tail less than 6. In both sexes the legs are intense red, the irides brown to reddish brown and the bill black. In the male the bare parts of the head are deep red, in the female yellow carmine. Weight up to 20 oz.