55. THE MOONAL-PHEASANT.
Lophophorus impeyanus, (Latham).
MALE :—Tail entirely chestnut; back white.
FEMALE :—Tail black, with some well-defined bright rufous bars.
Vernacular Names:—Lont, male,Ham, female, Nil-mor, Jungli-mor, Kashmir ; Nilgur, male, Nulwai, female, Chamba; Manal, Neel, male, Kururi, Karari, female, Kulu ; Moonal, male, Moonalee, female, Ghur monal, Ruttia-Cowan, Ratnal, Rat-Kap, Central Himalayas; Datteya, Kumaon and Garhwal ;Dangan, Dafai, Damphia, Nepal; Chamdong, Bhutia; Phodong-pho, Sikhim.
The Moonal-Pheasant is found throughout the Himalayas from Sikhim, and probably the western portion of Bhutan, to Kashmir. It has been obtained in Chitral by Colonel Biddulph, and it is found commonly in the Safed Koh, Afghanistan.
This species is usually observed between 6000 and 12,000 feet of elevation, but it is occasionally found as high as 15,000 feet and as low as 4500 feet. " Mountaineer," as quoted by Dr. Jerdon, has along and interesting account of the habits of this beautiful bird, from which I give a few extracts:—" The Monaul is found on almost every hill of any elevation, from the first great ridge above the plains to the limits of the wooded district, and in the interior it is the most numerous of the game birds. When the hills near Mussooree were first visited by Europeans, it was found to be common there, and a few may still be seen on the same ridge eastwards from Landour. In summer, when the rank vegetation which springs up in the forest renders it impossible to see many yards around, few are to be met with, except near the summits of the great ridges jutting from the snow, where in the morning and evening, when they come out to feed, they may be seen in the open glades of the forest and on the green slopes above. At that time no one would imagine they were half so numerous as they really are; but as the cold season approaches and the rank grass and herbage decay, they begin to collect together, the wood seems full of them, and in some places hundreds may be put up in a day's work. In summer the greater number of the males and some of the females ascend to near the limits of the forests where the hills attain a great elevation, and may often be seen on the grassy slopes a considerable distance above. In autumn they resort to those parts of the forests where the ground is thickly covered with decayed leaves, under which they search for grubs ; and descend lower and lower as winter sets in, and the ground becomes frozen or covered with snow. ... In the forest, when alarmed, it generally rises at once without calling or running far on the ground ; but on the open glades or grassy slopes, or any place to which it comes only to feed, it will, if not hard pressed, run or walk slowly away in preference to getting up; and a distant bird, when alarmed by the rising of others, will occasionally begin and continue calling for some time while on the ground. It gets up with a loud fluttering and a rapid succession of shrill screeching whistles, often continued till it alights, when it occasionally commences its ordinary loud and plaintive call and continues it for some time."
The Common Moonal breeds in May and June, laying its eggs in a depression in the ground at the foot of some rock or large tree, or near bushes, tufts of grass and fern. The nest is frequently the bare ground, but at times it is composed of a little dry grass or a few dead leaves. The eggs vary in number from four to six or even eight, and are -oval in shape. The ground-colour is buffy white and the whole egg is generally thickly covered with reddish brown freckles and spots. They measure from 2.41 to 2.69 in length and from 1.7 to 1.89 in breadth.
The male has the crest and the head bright metallic green; the back of the neck bright metallic coppery red. The mantle is bronze-green. The upper back, the greater portion of the visible parts of the closed wings, the rump and the shorter tail-coverts are metallic purple. The back is white. The longer tail-coverts are metallic green; the tail is entirely chestnut. The whole lower plumage is plain black, with here and there a very slight metallic gloss.
In the female, the crown and sides of the head, the sides and back of the neck, the mantle, the upper back and the visible portions of the closed wings are blackish, each feather with an irregular rufous shaft-streak and some rufous lines following the contour of the margin. The rump is pale rufous marked with black. The tail is black with some firm rufous cross-bars and very narrowly tipped with white. The first ten quills of the wing are dark brown. The chin and throat are white. The whole lower plumage is brown, each feather with a pale rufous or whitish shaft-streak and mottled with rufous.
Length of male about 26 ; wing about tail about 9. Length of female about 24 ; wing about 10 1/2; tail about 8. Legs greenish; irides brown; bill brown to blackish ; the bare skin on the sides of the face of the male blue. Weight up to 5 lb. 4 oz.