(1931) Tragopan satyra.
THE CRIMSON HORNED PHEASANT.
Meleagris satyra Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 157 (1758) (Sikkim). Tragopan satyra. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 99.
Vernacular names. Lungi (Hind., Garhwal and Kuman); Monal (Hind., Nepal); Omo, Bap (Bhutea); Tar-rhyak (Lepcha); Cham-dong (Tibetan).
Description.— Adult male. Head, crest and a ring round the semi-naked gular pouch black; a streak on either side of the crest, sides and back of neck, upper back and whole lower plumage orange-crimson, the upper back and lower plumage from the breast to the vent with white black-edged ocelli; on the breast and back the spots are small and completely surrounded by black, towards the vent the spots get larger and larger, less pure and more grey and the black less and less in extent, the spots on the posterior flanks and abdomen becoming large grey spots with black at the bases only; under tail-coverts crimson with white ocelli surrounded by brown, and with black terminal fringes; lower back, scapulars, rump and shorter tail-coverts olive-brown with white black-edged ocelli and black and rufous-buff vermiculations ; longer tail-coverts amber-brown with sub-terminal broad black edges; the scapulars are profusely marked with crimson and a few similar marks occur on the back outer rump and tail-coverts; shoulder of wing crimson; coverts like the scapulars, the greater with broad bases of mottled black and buff; inner secondaries like the greater coverts but with no crimson outer secondaries and primaries deep brown, with numerous broken mottlings of buff; bastard-wing chestnut mottled with dark brown on the inner webs at the tip.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill black, browner and paler on the terminal half; legs dull fleshy, suffused with blood-crimson in the breeding-season; spur pale grey-brown, whitish at the tip; horns, orbital skin and lappet Prussian-blue; when extended the latter shows a bright sage-green edge with four or five triangular patches of brilliant scarlet.
Measurements. Wing 245 to 285 mm.; bastard-wing up to 137 mm.; tail 232 to 300 mm.; tarsus about 85 to 90 mm.; culmen 14 to 16 mm. " Weight 3 lbs. to 4 lbs. 10 oz." (Hume).
Female. Whole plumage above, under wing-coverts and axillaries rufous-buff or rufous-ochre, vermiculated, barred and blotched with black and with narrow pale ochre central streaks ; tail rich rufous-brown with broken buff and black bars, the black grading into the general rufous-brown; the black on the inner webs of the outer tail-feathers developing into broad well-defined bars; chin and throat pale or albescent: breast like the back but paler and less richly coloured ; still paler on the abdomen and vent, where the central ochre streaks become large white spots.
The variation in colour in the females is very great; in some the rich rufous tint is absent and is replaced with grey: the size and brightness of the ochre streaks differ individually; in a few birds there are chestnut markings on the centre of the crown and on the scapulars, wing-coverts and inner secondaries.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown ; bill horny-brown; legs fleshy grey-brown.
Measurements. Wing 215 to 235 mm.
Young birds are like the female but less richly coloured.
Chick in down. Crown and nape rich chestnut changing to chestnut-brown on the back, rump and tail-tuft; lores, an indistinct supercilium and sides of head and nape fulvous, the latter mottled with chestnut ; forehead more orange-rufous; below pale fulvous or yellow-buff, greyer and duller on the abdomen.
Distribution. Garhwal, East through Nepal, Sikkim to Assam, North of the Brahmapootra as far East as Darrang. Whymper has shot satyra on the East bank of the Alaknanda river and melanocephalus on the West bank of the Bhagirathi and says that roughly the upper waters of the Ganges may be taken as the dividing-line between these two species.
Nidification. The Crimson Horned Pheasant breeds throughout its habitat between 9,000 feet and the limits of forest-growth. Hume obtained eggs from natives but with no satisfactory data, and the only other eggs known laid by wild birds are two clutches of two each, taken at the head of the Chambi Valley on the Sikkim-Tibet borders. Both were taken in the end of May from very rough stick-nests in small oaks, growing in stunted oak- and rhododendron-forest at about 10,000 feet elevation. The eggs are very rich deep rufous-red, almost like Peregrine Falcons' eggs. Other eggs laid in captivity and another pair from Garhwal are similar in every respect but colour, varying from a pale bright rufous-buff to a bright reddish-buff. All the eggs have minute frecklings of a darker colour but in most so microscopical as not to show up unless very carefully examined. Twelve eggs average 60.6 x 42.9 mm. These Pheasants are probably monogamous.
The males display under the urge of either anger or sexual excitement but the full exhibition of horns and lappets only in the latter case. The manner of exhibition is given in full under Tragopan blythi and in all species the exhibition seems only to vary in the colour of the horns and lappets.
Habits. This magnificent bird frequents elevations between 8,000 and 12,000 feet, higher still where forest and other conditions are suitable and down to 6,000 feet in Winter. It is essentially a bird of deep forest, though they feed in the open, mornings and evenings, digging up bulbs and roots, their favourite diet, but also eating seeds, shoots and tendrils. There is no proof that they ever eat insects, reptiles etc. They are determined skulkers, stout and speedy runners but poor birds from a sportsman's point of view. They can fly fast enough when put up and they have the Indian Pheasant's trick of hurling themselves headlong down the sides of steep hills, but they live in the steepest, most broken country, where it is very hard to get at them and then harder still to make them rise. Their notes are those of the genus.