Mountain pheasants are seen in the Himalayan region. In India they occur in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and J&K. Neighboring countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan also have some. Pheasants are the Winged guardians of Mountainscapes. Pheasants are the species of birds to which our national bird, the peacock, belongs.
Pheasants are an indicator species for the health of our mountains. About a third of all the pheasants in the world are found in India. While many pheasants have been reduced to birds for captive breeding (like the jungle fowl) or as game birds in the US and Europe, several parts of Asia still have the wild population. Seeing a tragopan in the wild can be compared only to seeing a tiger in the wild for the first time. The round black-bordered white spots or ocelli on the tragopan's feathers make it look like the King of Birds studded with diamonds all over. No wonder the local names for the tragopan are "Jewar" and "Sonalu". The tragopan is the state bird of Himachal Pradesh.
The beautiful monal pheasant, 'the bird of nine colours', is the state bird for nd Uttarakhand and Nepal. Monal feathers used to adorn the Kinnaur Caps of wealthy persons. Now their use is banned officially.
The birds cannot be viewed as game birds as most of the Western community does but these birds are the winged guardians of our mountainscapes. The pheasants are more than just beautiful birds, for they also have scientific value for environmentalists and ecologists. Years of research have shown that Himalayan pheasants are mostly found in moist, temperate forests where there is a thriving community of oak trees. Oaks are important in ecological terms because they grow only in forests that are mature with plenty of healthy undergrowth in the form of vibrant grasses and bushes and a wide array of specialized tree species. After establishing the close link between oak trees and pheasants, ecologists have reached the conclusion that a fall in pheasant population mirrors an adverse change in the mature forest habitat.
The hills and valleys of the Himalayan ranges are the only areas left in the world where these exotic birds species still exist in their natural surroundings. Western Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, Cheer, Koklass and Khaleej - the mountainscapes exist because they exist. Anyone living in the mountains will vouch for the Himalayan Monal whose calls warn the ground dwelling animals like musk deer, tahr and bear of approaching hunters /poachers. It is high time we removed the tag of game birds from pheasants.
See our short films
Sarahan-a Sanctuary for mountain birds
Mountain pheasants-Winged guardians of our mountainscapes