Birds – Eared Pheasants

In the higher ranges of central and eastern Asia occur the Eared Pheasants (Crossoptilon), the five species of which are large birds between thirty-six and forty inches long, with a loose, hairy plumage, a long, rounded tail of from twenty to twenty-four feathers, the middle pair being curved and decomposed at the tips, and the sides of the face naked and papillate, while the sides of the head are ornamented by long white tufts which resemble horns or ears, whence of course their common name. Perhaps the best-known is Hodgson’s Eared Pheasant (C. tibetanum) of the mountains of western China and eastern Tibet, where it is found in pine forests at elevations some 10,000 or 12,000 feet above the sea, and is indeed a splendid bird, being pure white both above and below, shading into gray on the longer wing- and upper tail-coverts, while the top of the head is covered with short, curly, black feathers, and the long, flowing tail is purplish bronze toward the base, shading into dark greenish blue and deep purple toward the extremity; this attractive plumage is further set off by the scarlet naked skin on the sides of the head and the reddish bill and legs. This species is said to be extremely sociable in its habits, as many as forty or fifty being found roosting in company, and even while rearing its young, still maintains its sociability; it feeds on leaves, grains, roots, and insects, and is not highly esteemed as food. The other species appear not greatly different in habits so far as these are known, but they are mostly quite scarce, one species being represented by only a single skin.