Blood Pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus)

Range: The Himalayas, from Nepal through Tibet into northern Burma to northwest China.

Subspecies: There are eleven subspecies according to Johnsgard. The Himalayan Blood Pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus cruentus), Tibetan Blood Pheasant (I. c. tibetanus), Kuser’s Blood Pheasant (I. c. kuseri), Mrs. Vernay’s Blood Pheasant (I. c. marionae), Rock’s Blood Pheasant (I. c. rocki), Clarke’s Blood Pheasant (I. c. clarkei), Geoffroy’s Blood Pheasant (I. c. geoffroyi), Berezowski’s Blood Pheasant (I. c. berezowskii), Beick’s Blood Pheasant (I. c. beicki), Bianchi’s Blood Pheasant (I. c. michaelis), David’s Blood Pheasant (I. c. sinensis).

Habitat: High altitudes from 10,000 to 15,000 feet during the breeding season and down to 7,000 during winter. Prefers coniferous forests.

Brief Description: Quite unlike any other pheasant species is appearance, resembles partridge in both size and shape. The nominate race cruentus has a white crest, black line under and over the eye with red orbitial skin and throat. The upper breast is pale buff with red streaks, the lower breast and belly is light buff with marked the same as above but more pronounced. The rest of the body is streaked gray, white and buff. The tail is red also streaked with gray and buff. The main differences in the subspecies is the amount of red on breast and the markings on the face.

Brief Description, Female: The face, forehead and throat are light rust; the top of the head and the back of the neck are gray. The rest of the body is is overall light brown vermiculated with darker brown.

Status in Wild: Being native to such remote areas, this species has not been subject to the problems other pheasant species have due to man. While not much is known of its actual status in the wild, they remain unthreatened and stable. Status by BirdLife International/IUCN as Lower risk/least concern.

Status in Aviculture: I cannot find any sources in American aviaries or zoos. The latest records of this species was in the 1970s when Charles Sivelle had produced chicks. As far as I know (as of 12-2007, please e-mail me if you know otherwise), there are no Blood Pheasants in captivity in America. The species has been recently bred in Belgium by François Bernar.

Clutch Size: 5-12 eggs.

Incubation Period: 27-29 days.

Blood Pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus), 43 cm for male and 39cm for female. Crest grey, varying in length according to race; forehead, face, and throat red; breast streaked with red; above grey, the feathers prominently white streaked. Female: mainly brown to greyish brown.

Resident in Qinghai, Gansu, Shaanxi, Yunnan, Tibet, Shanxi, Henan and Sichuan. Inhabits rather high altitude, near snow line, or lower places in winter. In flocks of 4-20 in non-breeding season, up to 40 in winter. Descends from trees before daybreak to wood margins, gradually moving to and wandering in willow stands with lawns nearby or mixed forests of pine, fir and beech trees. Picks up food with its bill, seldom digs for food with claws but sometimes jumps up to shrubs to feed. Naps at noon and spends night at azalea twigs.

A good runner but poor flier. Rushes down hills, if at risk, and hides under stones. Scatters during breeding season and pairs in mid April. Between late April and early May, female builds a nest under paddy straw heaps surrounded by pine, fir and willow trees; in shrubs; under rocks; by fallen trees; or in tree holes near the ground. A shallow saucer nest of dry twigs lined with leaves; or of leaves, thin tree roots and mosses; piled up and then pressed and decorated with usnea outside; or of paddy straws and leaves, wormwood, pine needles, mosses and dry twigs lined with belly feathers. Eggs: 5-14, often 6-7; long oval, varying in size; pink or yellowish white with dark brown or rufous speckles; laid in May; incubated by female but guarded by male for 29-33 days; and covered with dry grass or feather when female is leaving. In a habit of moving the eggs or deserting the nest if at risk. Chicks seen in mid June, able to follow mother to feed at two days old. Lives in a covey till winter.