Birds – Kalij Pheasants

Inhabiting the Himalayas and the Indo-Chinese countries, but at much lower elevations than the last, is a large genus (Gennceus of some sixteen species, a part of which are known as Kalij Pheasants, and the remainder, which exhibit a peculiar vermiculated upper plumage, as Silver Pheasants. They have a long, compressed, and vaulted tail of sixteen feathers, the middle ones long and drooping like the domestic cock ; and both the sexes have the crest composed of soft, narrow feathers, which are some three inches long in the males and little shorter in the females. The male has a large portion of the sides of the head naked, and is armed with a single strong spur on each leg. Of the four or five species belonging to the first group we may select for brief mention the White-crested Kalij (G. albicristatus) of the western Himalayas and Nepal. About twenty-five inches in length, the male has the upper plumage mainly black, glossed with purplish and steel-blue, the feathers of the mantle, back, and rump being more or less margin with white, while the long, hairy crest is white, the chin and throat black, and the lower parts brownish white; the female is two inches shorter and has the whole plumage reddish brown. This fine Pheasant is most abundant in the lower regions, frequenting especially the foot-hills and lower valleys up to an elevation of about 8000 feet, and occurring in almost every variety of situation, such as low coppice and wooded jungle, ravines, and borders of the denser forests. “The call of the bird,” says Captain Baldwin, “which may be heard at all times of the day, is a sharp twut, twut, twut, sometimes very low, with a long pause between each note, then suddenly increasing loudly and excitedly.” They also produce a peculiar sound during the breeding season by flapping the wings against the body, apparently much as our Ruffed Grouse drums, but its object appears to be a challenge to a rival male, for they are very pugnacious at this time, and engage in fierce, often fatal battles. This sound may be closely imitated and is often resorted to for the purpose of securing them. They nest throughout their range, depositing the nine to four-teen reddish buff eggs in a simple hollow scratched in the ground under some stone, bush, or tuft of long grass. Perhaps the most beautiful member of the second group is the Silver Pheasant (G. nyctheuaerus) of southern China, the male of which has the crest and under parts black glossed with purple, and the upper parts white, most of the feathers with five or six narrow, black, concentric lines; its total length is forty inches, while the female is but half this length and mostly olive-brown finely mottled with dusky lines. Although a common bird in aviaries it is said to be very rare in a wild state and but little is known of its habits.

The Koklass Pheasants (Pucrasia), the seven species of which range throughout the Himalayas from Afghanistan to Tibet and Manchuria, are peculiar birds, easily distinguished by the absence of naked skin on the sides of the head, and a very remarkable crest of narrow, soft feathers, the outer ones, or those behind the ear-coverts, being fully twice the length of the central ones, while the whole plumage of the males is lanceolate. The Common Koklass (P. macrolopha) of the western Himalayas has the under plumage and sides of the body ashy streaked with black in the male, the female being mostly rufous streaked with black. This is especially a forest-haunting species, frequenting the wooded ravines from an elevation of about 4000 feet up to near the limit of trees, though most abundant in the lower and intermediate ranges. It is a rather retiring, solitary bird, generally found singly or in pairs, never congregating in flocks even during the winter season, and in fact appears to be one of the few members of its class that remain paired for life.