(1928) Lophophorus impejanus.
THE IMPEYAN PHEASANT or MONAL.
Phasianus impejanus Lath., Ind. Orn., ii, p. 632 (1790) (India). Lophophorus impeyanus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 96.
Vernacular Names. Loth, Ham ; Nil-mohr, Jangli Mohr (Kashmir); Nilgur (Chamba); Munal, Nil; Karari (Kulu); Munal, Ghar-munal, Ratia Kawan, Ratnal, Ratkap (N. W. Himalayas); Datiya (Kuman and Garhwal); Dafia (Nepal); Fo-dong (Lepcha); Chamdong (Bhut., Sikkim) ; Chadong (Tibetan, Chambi Valley); Pia-Padir (Mishmi).
Description.— Adult male. Head and long crest of spatulate feathers metallic green; a patch of deep metallic purple behind the ear-coverts; lores and a streak behind the eye nearly bare; sides of neck and nape fiery copper-bronze changing gradually into bronze-green on the back; scapulars and adjacent wing-coverts, innermost secondaries and rump purple, the secondaries tipped metallic green-blue; lower back white, sometimes pure, sometimes with fine black shaft-stripes; rump and shorter tail-coverts purple, more or less glossed with blue-green ; longest tail-coverts metallic green; tail cinnamon, darker at the tip; shoulder of wing and remaining coverts metallic green ; primaries and secondaries dark brown, the latter glossed with green on their margins; underparts brownish-black or dull black, glossed with green on the breast and flanks, under tail-coverts metallic green with dark bases.
Aberrant plumage in this species is exceptionally coloured and there are specimens which show the following features : one with a wholly black tail; some with blue interscapulars; some with the whole lower plumage metallic green and others again which are melanistic or partly albino.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; orbital skin and cheeks bright blue or smalt-blue; bill horny-brown, paler and yellowish on the culmen, tip and commissure; legs yellowish or pale brownish-green, sometimes darker and, rarely, plumbeous. The colours of all these parts vary greatly.
Measurements. Wing 289 to 320 mm.; tail 215 to 235 mm.; tarsus about 70 to 80 mm.; culmen about 50 to 54 mm.; crest 75 to 88 mm, Weight about 5 lbs." (F. M. Bailey).
Female. Feathers of head and short lanceolate crest black with central streaks and edges of rufous-buff; nape the same with broader streaks ; back and mantle black, with two buff streaks and buff edges to each feather; here and there the buff is replaced with white, giving a curious mottled appearance; lower back buff with crescentic black bars; tail-coverts buff with larger bars occupying most of the feathers; longest tail-coverts with white tips; tail boldly barred black and rufous and tipped white; visible parts of wing-coverts and secondaries like the back but more mottled; primaries and outer secondaries dark brown, the former mottled, the latter barred with rufous-buff on the outer webs; chin, throat and fore-neck white; remainder of lower parts brown, the breast and flanks with dark lines, these more broken and fewer on the abdomen and lower breast, their place being taken by pale central streaks and white shafts; lower tail-coverts white, barred with black and rufous.
Measurements. Wing 259 to 287 mm. " Weight 4 lbs. 11 oz." (F. M. Bailey).
Young males are like the female but more mottled with black above and with black and rufous below.
Chick in down. Crown rufous-chestnut with a central black line; nape brown mottled paler; back chestnut-brown with lateral streaks of buff; wing and tail pale cinnamon-buff with blackish pencillings ; below dirty fulvous-buff.
Distribution. Afghanistan and the Western Himalayas through Kashmir, Garhwal, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Chambi Valley, South-Tibet to the Mishrai Hills. It is common on the Afghan boundary but it is not known how far West it penetrates into that country.
Nidification. The Monal breeds during May and June,, sometimes a little earlier, from about 8,000 feet up to the limit of the birch-forests. In the Simla Hills the eggs have been taken at 7,000 feet. They do not select very heavy forest but prefer such as is fairly free of undergrowth but at the same time rocky and very broken up. Here they make a scratching under the shelter of a rock, tree or bush and lay four or five eggs on a bed of fallen leaves and rubbish. Two may occasionally be incubated whilst apparently they never lay more than six at the outside. In colour the eggs vary from a very pale dull yellowish stone-colour to a fairly warm buff. Some eggs are freckled all over with minute specks and small blotches of reddish-brown and with secondary markings of grey and pale purple, not noticeable unless carefully examined. Other eggs have the blotches larger and more sparse and are quite handsome eggs. In shape they are long rather pointed ovals and fifty-eight average 64.7 x 44.3 mm.: maxima 69.8 X 44.8 and 62.6 X 48.8 mm.; minima 59.6 X 45.8 and 61.0 x 39.6 mm.
The display is described by Major Roden, who says the cook suddenly advances towards the hen with his tail spread, feathers distended and his wings held high over his back. They are said to be polygamous and the hen is left to do all the incubation and rearing of the young.
Habits. This, the most magnificent of all our Pheasants, is still a comparatively common bird in many parts of Garhwal, Kashmir,, the Kulu and Kangra Valleys and certain other districts. They frequent light forest and seem particularly fond of birch-forest, light oak and rhododendron forests wandering out into the open glades and grassy slopes outside the forests when feeding in the mornings and evenings. It feeds on roots, leaves, berries,, acorns and many shoots of plants, as well as on grubs and larvae, for which it is said to sometimes continue digging for hours at a time. Young birds are considered good for the table, though the old birds are tough and stringy. Their call is described as a shrill whistle uttered both on the ground and when just on the wing. They are good filers but, like most of our Indian Pheasants, prefer to run whenever possible.