Birds – The Blood Pheasants

The Blood Pheasants

(Ithaginis) are much larger, attaining a length of from fifteen to nearly eighteen inches, the three known species being confined to Tibet and western China. The plumage, the prevailing color of which in the males is a peculiar grass-green, is long and soft, and the male is provided with a full crest and has the body-feathers pointed. The male has the feet armed with two or more pairs of spurs, which are represented by a pair of blunt knobs in the female. In the best-known species (I. cruentus) of the higher Himalayas and Tibet, the male is gray above with the wings more or less green, as are the lower parts, the chin, throat, cheeks, and entire tail-coverts being crimson, and the feathers of the breast edged with the same. The female, which is much smaller than the male, is pale brown above and reddish brown below, mottled throughout with darker; in both the naked skin around the eyes and the feet are coral-red. They are found at elevations of from 10,000 to 14,000 feet, frequenting especially the forests of pine and juniper, upon the berries and seeds of which they largely feed during the winter, but at other seasons on wild fruit, seeds, grass, and insects. They are fearless and rather stupid birds, enjoying but feeble powers of flight, usually preferring to escape by running rather than take to wing. They are found in coveys of twenty or thirty or in winter often in great flocks, and if they become separated, as when hunted, begin at once calling sharply to bring the scattered members together. After feeding on berries and fruits they are considered good eating, but in winter the flesh acquires a strong flavor of juniper and pine, and is only resorted to when other things fail. They nest on the ground under bushes and grass, laying ten or twelve eggs. The other species, so far as known, have similar habits.