Cheer pheasant (Catreus wallichi)

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Cheer pheasant
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Cheer pheasant fact file

Cheer pheasant description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderGalliformes
FamilyPhasianidae
GenusCatreus (1)

Although perhaps rather drab in comparison to other pheasant species, the cheer pheasant is no less distinctive (2) (4), with a narrow, brown hair-like crest a distinguishing feature. The male cheer pheasant has red facial skin, buff-grey plumage with black bars and markings, and a long tail, strongly barred with buff, black and brown (4) (5) (6). The female is smaller than the male, somewhat duller in plumage and more heavily marked, with reduced red facial skin, a shorter crest and lacking the male’s spurs (4) (5) (6).

Also known as
Chir pheasant, Wallich’s pheasant.
Synonyms
Catreus wallichii, Lophophorus wallichii.
Spanish
Faisán Chir, Faisán de Wallich.
Size
Male length: 90 – 112 cm (2)
Male tail length: 45 – 58 cm (2)
Female length: 61 – 67 cm (2)
Female tail length: 32 – 47 cm (2)
Male weight: 1250 – 1800 g (2)
Female weight: 900 – 1360 g (2)
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Cheer pheasant biology

These pheasants tend to be fairly gregarious for much of the year, aggregating into flocks of five to fifteen birds, but form monogamous pairs during the breeding season from late April to June (8). Clutch sizes are relatively large, usually comprising ten to eleven eggs, though as many as 14 have been reported (2) (7) (8). The nest is typically located at the foot of a rocky crag on steep hillsides, usually well hidden in grasses, bushes or bracken (2) (8). The eggs are incubated for 26 days (in captivity) by the female, although the male usually remains close by (2) (8), and will help brood and protect the newly hatched chicks (7). If very young chicks are disturbed, both parents will perform a distraction display and the male will threaten the intruder (7).

Most of the cheer pheasant’s food is believed to be dug from the ground with its powerful beak, and includes roots, tubers, bulbs, buried seeds, grubs, beetles, snails, insect larvae and worms. Seeds, berries, grasses and leaves from above ground may also feature in the diet (2) (5) (7). Foraging is done in mornings and evenings, typically in pairs or sometimes in family groups (8).

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Cheer pheasant range

Native to the southern foothills of the western Himalayas, from north Pakistan, through Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal, India, east to central Nepal (6) (7).

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Cheer pheasant habitat

Found in rocky, precipitous terrain dominated by scrub, grass and stunted trees, mostly between 1,200 and 3,250 metres above sea level (2) (6). Also known from burnt, felled and cut-over areas of mixed pine, juniper, fir and rhododendron forest with secondary growth (2). The pheasant’s preference for areas subject to regular browsing, burning or cutting has led to an association with human settlements (6).

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Cheer pheasant status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Cheer pheasant threats

A growing human population, changing patterns of land use and hunting have all placed enormous pressures on the cheer pheasant population and contributed to its decline. The species was widely shot for sport in the early 20th Century, and is still hunted intensively for food and its eggs are collected for local consumption (6). Whilst hunting has probably been the greatest pressure on populations, habitat loss and alteration are also real problems, with grassland and scrubland areas being heavily grazed and converted to agriculture, and timber collection and medicinal plant collection causing further degradation (7). The patchy, dispersed nature of this bird’s specialised habitat is of considerably concern, particularly for the smallest isolated subpopulations, many of which are thought to number fewer than ten individuals. Not only are these small populations vulnerable to the damaging effects of inbreeding, but the fragmented nature of their habitat renders them at risk of higher levels of disturbance, grazing, hunting and wood-felling, and thus of extinction (6). Unfortunately, persecution and habitat loss are proving difficult to control, even in protected areas (7).

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Cheer pheasant conservation

The cheer pheasant is legally protected in Nepal and India, and occurs in at least 12 protected areas in Himachal Pradesh, three in Uttar Pradesh and three in Nepal (6). In 1978, the World Pheasant Association (WPA) began donating aviary-laid eggs and young to Pakistan for a captive-breeding scheme in which the individuals were raised in captivity and then released into the wild (7). Sadly, the reintroduction attempts in Pakistan were unsuccessful, with no long-term survivors, and the project has therefore been abandoned (6) (7). Protection of the cheer pheasant’s remaining populations, and conservation of its natural habitat, must therefore remain a priority in the battle to safeguard its continued existence (9).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on the cheer pheasant see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Gregarious
Tending to form a group with others of the same species by habitually living or moving in flocks or herds rather than alone.
Inbreeding
The breeding of closely related individuals. An inbred population usually has less genetic variability and this is generally disadvantageous for its long-term survival and success.
Larvae
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Monogamous
Mating with a single partner.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World - New World Vultures To Guineafowl. Vol. 2. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (May, 2006)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. gbwf.org: Dedicated to the Aviculture and Conservation of the World’s Galliformes (August, 2006)
    http://www.gbwf.org/pheasants/cheer.html
  5. Delacour, J. (1951) The Pheasants of the World. Country Life Ltd., London.
  6. BirdLife International (August, 2006)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=266&m=0
  7. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
  8. Wildlife of Pakistan (August, 2006)
    http://www.wildlifeofpakistan.com/Cheer_Pheasant.htm
  9. WWF Pakistan (August, 2006)
    http://www.wwfpak.org/sc_cheerpheasant.php
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Image credit

Cheer pheasant  
Cheer pheasant

© Joanna Van Gruisen / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

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