50. THE CRIMSON HORNED PHEASANT.
Tragopan satyra, (Linnaeus).
MALE :—Lower plumage crimson with round white or grey spots, each surrounded by a black border.
FEMALE :—Plumage very rufous, the upper parts with triangular buff marks ; both webs of the quills of the wing much marked with rufous.
Vernacular Names -.—Loongee, Garhwal and Kumaon; Moonal, Nepal; Tirriakpho, Lepcha ; Omo, Bup, Bhutia ; Nunal, Sikhim ; Dafia, Bengal.
The Crimson Horned Pheasant is found in the Himalayas from Garhwal to Bhutan. In the summer this bird occurs up to the altitude of 12,000 feet, and at that time is not often met with below 8000 feet. In winter it comes down to about 7000 feet.
Mr. Hume, as usual, has some excellent notes on this Pheasant, and I shall quote
some of them :—" Although always on hills near to or bordering on the snow,
they are never seen amongst it (except perhaps in winter) and seem to shun it, as much as the Blood Pheasant delights in it. Even the Moonal will be seen high above the forest, well up on grassy slopes, fringed with and dotted about with patches of snow. But the Tragopan is essentially a forest bird, rarely if ever wandering up towards the snow or into the open, and though frequenting perhaps rather their outskirts than their deeper recesses, it hardly ever voluntarily quits the shelter of the woods and their dense undergrowth.
" Except by chance, when you may come upon a male sunning himself or preening his feathers on some projecting rock or bare trunk of a fallen tree, these birds are never to be seen, unless by aid of three or four good dogs, who will speedily rouse them up, or of a trained shikari, who will call them out by cleverly imitating their loud bleating cry.
"If you ever catch a passing glimpse of them, it is but for a second; they drop like stones from their perch and dart away with incredible swiftness, always running, never, so far as I have seen, rising, unless you accidentally almost walk on to them or have dogs with you."
In the spring these birds are continually calling, and Dr. Jerdon remarks that they have a low deep bellowing cry, sounding like Waa-ung, waa-ung.
This Pheasant breeds in the forests and dense patches of bamboo that lie below the snow. Mr. Hume had eggs brought to him which were taken in Kumaon in May, These eggs are no longer in the Hume Collection. There is, however, a single egg of this species in the British Museum, laid in captivity in the London Zoological Gardens, which corresponds well with the description of the eggs of this Pheasant given by Mr. Hume. It is oval, with very little gloss. The groundcolour is white with a slight tinge of buff, and the shell is speckled all over with pale lilac. The egg measures 2.45 by 1.8.
In the male bird the lateral portions of the crest are crimson. With this exception, the crest and the whole head and throat are black. The mantle is rich crimson. The general aspect of the upper plumage is olive-brown mottled and marked with black and buff, the wings dashed with crimson, and each feather with a round white or pale grey spot surrounded by a black border. The tail is black mottled with rufous except on the terminal portion. The quills of the wing are much barred and marked with rufous on both webs. The general aspect of the lower plumage is crimson with round white or pale-grey spots, each of which is surrounded by a black border.
In the female the upper plumage and the wings are mottled and vermiculated in an irregular manner with black and rufous, and most of the feathers have a triangular or spearhead-shaped buff mark. The quills of the wing are boldly barred and mottled with rufous. The tail is black with wavy rufous bars. The lower plumage is sandy rufous, often mixed with grey, mottled with black and most of the feathers with a buff streak or patch.
Length of male about 26; wing about 11; tail about 10; throat and the skin round the eye purplish blue; gular flap orange-coloured with narrow blue bars at the sides ; the horns bright lazuline blue. Length of female about 23 ; wing about 9; tail about 8. In both sexes the legs are flesh-coloured ; the irides brown; the bill dark brown. Weight up to 4 lb. 10 oz.