51. THE WESTERN HORNED PHEASANT.
Tragopan melanocephalus, (Gray).
MALE :—Lower plumage black with round white spots.
FEMALE :—Lower plumage with round or oval white spots, each more or less edged with black ; the inner webs of the quills of the wing nearly plain.
Vernacular Names :—Jowar, Garhwal; Jaghi, Jajhi, Busahir; Sing-monal, N.W. Himalayas ; Fulgoor, Chamba ; Jigurana, Jeejurana, male, Bodal, female. Kulu, Mandi, etc.
The Western Horned Pheasant is found in the Himalayas from Garhwal to Kashmir, and according to Mr. Hume even to Hazara; but the series of skins in the Hume Collection is defective in specimens from the extreme north-west, and we cannot trace the limits of this species in Kashmir and beyond. This Pheasant does not anywhere meet the Crimson Horned Pheasant, the range of the two species being, according to Mr, Hume, separated by a distance which he refers to as a four days' march.
" Mountaineer," as quoted by Dr. Jerdon, gives an interesting account of the habits of this species. He "says :—" Its usual haunts are high up, not far from the snows, in dense and gloomy forests, either alone or in small scattered parties. In winter they descend the hills, and then their favourite haunts are in the thickest parts of the forest of Oak, Chestnut, and Morenda Pine, where the Box-tree is abundant, and where under the forest trees a luxuriant growth of ' Ringall' or the hill Bamboo forms an underwood in some places almost impenetrable. They keep in companies of from two or three to ten or a dozen or more, not in compact flocks, but scattered widely over a considerable space of forest, so that many at times get quite separated, and are found alone. If undisturbed, however, they generally remain pretty close together, and appear to return year after year to the same spot, even though the ground be covered with snow, for they find their living then on the trees. If driven away from the forest by an unusually severe storm, or any other cause, they may be found at this season in small clumps of wood, wooded ravines, patches of low brushwood, etc.
"At this season, except its note of alarm when disturbed, the Jewar is altogether mute, and is never heard of its own accord to utter a note or call of any kind; unlike the rest of our Pheasants, all of which occasionally crow or call at all seasons. When alarmed, it utters a succession of wailing cries, not unlike those of a young lamb or kid, like the syllables " Waa, waa, waa'' each syllable uttered slowly and distinctly at first, and more rapidly as the bird is hard pressed or about to take wing. Where not repeatedly disturbed, it is not particularly shy, and seldom takes alarm till a person is in its immediate vicinity, when it creeps slowly through the underwood, or flies up into a tree; in the former case continuing its call till again stationary, and in the latter till it has concealed itself in the branches. If several are together, all begin to call at once, and run off in different directions, some mounting into the trees, others running along the ground. . . . Their flight is rapid, the whir peculiar, and even when the bird is not seen, may be distinguished by the sound from that of any other. . . . Early in April they begin to pair, and the males are then more generally met with than at any other period; they seem to wander about a great deal, are almost always found alone, and often call at intervals all day long. When thus calling, the bird is generally perched on the thick branch of a tree, or the trunk of one that has fallen to the ground, or on a large stone. The cry is similar to the one they utter when disturbed, but is much louder, and only one single note at a time, a loud energetic " waa" not unlike the bleating of a lost goat, and can be heard for upwards of a mile. It is uttered at various intervals, sometimes every five or ten minutes for hours together, and sometimes not more than two or three times during the day, and most probably to invite the females to the spot."
As noted in the second edition of the "Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds," Mr. Hume received six eggs of this species from Captain Unwin, who found them in May in the Hazara country. The nest was roughly formed of grass, small sticks and a few feathers. Four of these eggs are now in the British Museum. They are elongated ovals without any gloss. The ground-colour is reddish buff, and they are thickly and minutely freckled with reddish brown. The six eggs as measured by Mr. Hume varied in length from 2.4 to 2.55, and in breadth from 1.68 to 1.72. They are quite unlike the egg of the Crimson Horned Pheasant already referred to, but very similar to the eggs of the Grey-bellied, and Temminck's, Horned Pheasants as described below.
The male has the whole head and crest black, the latter tipped with crimson. The whole neck is rich crimson and the chest fiery red, the feathers of the latter part much pointed and harsh to the touch. The general aspect of the upper plumage is buff, barred and mottled with black and olive-brown, and each feather with a white spot surrounded by black. The tail is black barred with buff except at the tips of the feathers. The quills of the wings are barred with buff on both webs. The general aspect of the lower plumage is black, each feather with a large round white spot.
The female is of a general greyish brown colour mottled and barred with black and pale buff. The hindneck is generally suffused with rufous. The lower plumage is paler, and each feather has, near the tip, a round or oval white spot surrounded, or nearly so, by a black border. The quills of the wing are mottled with pale buff on the outer web, but the inner web is almost plain brown, there being only a few buff marks on the edge farthest from the shaft.
Length of male about 27 ; wing about 10 1/2; tail about 10 1/2. The sides of the head are red; the horns blue, and the gular flap purple in the middle, spotted and edged with pale blue and fleshy on the sides. Length of female about 23 ; wing about 9 1/2; tail about 9. In both sexes the legs are greyish or flesh-colour and the irides brown. The weight is up to lb.