Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus)
|Also known as:||danphe, Impeyan pheasant|
|Size||Length: 63 – 72 cm (2)|
|Weight||1.8 – 2.4 kg (2)|
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).
A stunningly colourful member of the pheasant family, the Himalayan monal is the national bird of Nepal. The iridescent rainbow-like plumage of the male is surpassed only by the slightly larger Chinese monal (Lophophorus lhuysii). The male Himalayan monal possesses a wiry, metallic green head-crest that is absent in other monal species, as well as a chestnut brown tail, light brown wings and a white rump that is visible in flight. The head is bright green, the eyes ringed with blue and the neck reddish brown. At the nape of the neck is a yellow patch which forms the top edge of the bluish black wings and the purplish black back. The breast is dark brown and the tail feathers are light brown. Females do not share the same splendour as males, with overall dark brown feathers, except for a white throat and rump patch, and the bright blue circle around the eyes. The female also has a crest, but whereas the male’s is green and has spoon-shaped feathers, the female’s is shorter, and brown with ordinary feathers (2) (4).
Found in the Himalayas from eastern Afghanistan to Bhutan, northeast India and southern Tibet; the Himalayan monal has also been reported from Burma (2).
During the summer months, the Himalayan monal ventures above the tree-line to wander on the grassy slopes, but during winter it is found in coniferous and mixed forests with a high proportion of rhododendrons and bamboo, where it shelters from the weather. It is a high-altitude species, remaining between 2,100 and 4,500 metres above sea level (2) (4).
A highly communicative bird, the Himalayan monal uses several different call types to express meaning to its mate, other birds in its foraging group, or intruding birds. Males also use body displays to attract females; bobbing the head-crest and fanning their tail feathers. The breeding season begins in April when the monals are at higher altitudes. The male switches from calling only in the early morning to calling throughout the day. Once a female notices his display they mate and shortly afterwards she scrapes a nest in the ground and lays between three and five eggs. The female must incubate the eggs alone, but the male will stand guard throughout the 27-day incubation period and until fledging to protect the eggs and chicks from predators. After six months the young are completely independent and must search for food and mates alone (5).
Like many of the pheasants, quails and partridges in the Phasianidae family, the Himalayan monal has very strong legs and a long, curved beak which together enable it to dig into the hard soil of the mountains to uncover seeds, tubers, shoots, berries, and insects. This method of foraging leaves conspicuous areas of turned over soil up to 25 cm deep on hillsides (2).
The specific requirements of the Himalayan monal make it important to conserve its habitat, but currently this beautiful bird is not seriously threatened. In many parts of its range tree harvesting takes place and additionally this pheasant is hunted for food. It is also hunted for the colourful plumes of its headdress by the inhabitants of Kulu Valley, but this practice appears to have declined significantly in the last ten years. For now the Himalayan monal is not at risk (2) (5).
The Himalayan monal’s status as the national bird of Nepal helps to raise awareness of this stunning bird and its needs, and it is hoped that this may keep the species safe in the future. It is currently common and has been recorded in many protected areas in its range, as well as many areas that are not suffering degradation. It is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora which prevents unlicensed export of the species or its body parts. This listing prevents the possibility that such an extraordinary bird might find popularity as a pet (2).
For further information on this species see the Sacromento Zoo website at:
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
- BirdLife International:
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:
IUCN Red List (May, 2006)
- Del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2001) Handbook of the Birds of the World Volume 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
CITES (May, 2006)
Nepal Traveller (May, 2006)
The Sacromento Zoo (July, 2010)