The Spectacular Himalayan Monal

March 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Features

As one of the more colorful members of the pheasant family, the Himalayan monal features iridescent plumage in shades of blue, green and red. Its back is purple-black, with a dark brown breast, light brown tail feathers and white throat. Its white rump patch is only visible in flight. The male of the species boasts a metallic green head crest with spoon-shaped feathers, while the female has a shorter, brown colored crest. The Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus) is the national bird of Nepal and is referred to as the Danphe, and it is the official bird of the Indian state of Uttarakhand, where it is referred to as the Monal.

The Himalayan monal uses a number of different call types to communicate with other birds in its flock, and to warn off intruding birds. In addition to using courting calls, males bob their head crests and fan their tail feathers to attract the attention of a mate. Also, during breeding season, males become far more vocal, calling throughout the day instead of only in the early mornings. After mating, the female scrapes a hollow in the ground to lay her three to five eggs in. Only the female incubates the eggs, but the male will remain close by to protect the female and their offspring until they fledge. By the age of six months, young Himalayan monals are independent of their parents and will search for food and find mates to continue the cycle.

Himalayan monals have powerful legs and strong curved beaks to allow them to dig into hard mountain soil in their search for tubers, shoots, seeds, insects and berries. Birders can be on the lookout for these stunning birds when they come across areas of turned over soil on hillsides, as this the telltale evidence of their foraging activities.

As a high-altitude species, Himalayan monals remain between 2,100 and 4,500 meters above sea level, and during the summer months generally move above the tree-line of their mountainous terrain, but in winter will find shelter in the rhododendron, coniferous and mixed forests of Nepal and the other countries in which it is found, which includes Bhutan, northeast India and southern Tibet.