Tragopan melanocephalus



Jewar, Garhwal.

The " Simla argus," as this tragopan is sometimes called, the crimson bird being the " Sikkim argus"—both wrongly, for as I said before, they are not at all like argus pheasants—is sufficiently like its Eastern relative to be recognized as a close kins¬ man at once ; there are the same white spots, the same general size and form, and the same red on the neck and pinions, while the ground-colour of the back is of a similar mottled brown. But the under-parts are very different, being nearly all black in ground-colour, thus enhancing the guinea-fowl effect, while the face is quite bare and bright-red, although the bib is said to show both red and blue, and is probably similar, when fully expanded, to that of the better-known species.

The hen is more of a true pepper-and-salt grizzle, with less rufous in the tint, and on the under-parts is distinctly spotted with white ; her hues are altogether colder than those of the crimson bird's female, as one would expect from the sparseness of the red colouring in her mate, which would really be better called the black tragopan, from his dominant colour.

The young cock, as in the other species, first shows his. colour on the neck ; he is said not to come into full colour till the third year. This species runs a little larger than the crimson bird; it is found from the ridge between the Kaltor and Billing rivers in native Garhwal, on the east, all along the hills as far as Hazara, being known in the north-west as SING-MONAL. As the crimson tragopan is also called MONAL in Nepal, it seems that natives group the great pheasant-partridges, as one may call these birds, and the true monals together. In Kullu, Mandi, and Suket there are different names for the sexes, the cock being Jigurana and the hen Budal; the Chamba name is Falgur, and that used in Bashahr is Jaghi.

Unlike so many representative species, the two tragopans do not range up to each others' boundaries, for, says Hume, from the ridge in Garhwal above-mentioned, " for some four days' march you meet with neither species. In this interval there are three high ranges to cross that divide the Bhilling Rand Valley from that of the Bangar Rand, this latter from the Mandagni Valley, and this latter again from that of the Alaknanda." How it is the birds have left this considerable bit of neutral ground untenanted appears never to have been explained, and the problem would, be well worth solving.

Like the crimson tragopan this species is essentially a wood-lander;. it feeds chiefly on leaves, especially of box, oak, ringal, and a privet-like shrub; it also likes berries, especially that of the Dekha of Kullu, and takes insects, acorns, and grubs as well, while in captivity it eats grain. Though shifting its ground more or less according to season, and ascending in the spring to near the forest limit, it often remains in forests with plenty of snow on the ground, being able to find its food in the trees. It is a shy bird, avoiding human habitations, and seldom seen even by natives, while, though it becomes tame very quickly in captivity, it seems rarely to be exported, so that its intimate habits and display are apparently unknown. The wild alarm note is a repeated bleat like a lamb's or kid's, and the spring call is a loud version of the same ; no doubt there are really two notes as in the crimson tragopan. Where not disturbed, these birds may be seen at times feeding in open patches in the forests along with monal, and are easily shot when treed by dogs ; but persecution makes them very wary, and at the best of times a pot-shot on the ground or in a tree is all that can be got. They hide themselves with great skill, and when " treed " watch the sportsman and shoot off as soon as discovered before proper aim can be taken. They generally keep in straggling parties, and are often, found alone.

The eggs have rarely been taken, owing probably to the¬ assumption that birds of this kind must be ground-breeders. Those that have been taken are dull freckled buff; six were in the clutch, and May was the month in which they were taken, at the western limit of the bird's range in Hazara. They were on the ground, in a spot where a landslip had carried away a bit of pine-forest, covered with small second growth of bushes and shrubs ; the nest was a rough structure of grass and sticks. No doubt if old pigeons' and squirrels' nests are investigated in this tragopan's haunts, the eggs will be more easily found.

Indian Sporting Birds
Finn, Frank. Indian Sporting Birds. Edwards, 1915.
Title in Book: 
Tragopan melanocephalus
Book Author: 
Frank Finn
Page No: 
Common name: 
Western Tragopan
Western Tragopan
Tragopan melanocephalus

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith