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cline01 (1K)


Western Tragopan

(Tragopan melanocephalus)




Other Names: Black-headed Tragopan, Western Horned Pheasant

Range: The western Himalayas in Northern Pakistan, Northwestern India

Subspecies: None

Habitat: Himalayan Forests

Status in Wild: Rare and vulnerable.

Avicultural Data

Status in Aviculture: They were first brought to captivity in the 1860s when over fifty birds were brought to the London Zoo and breeders in France over a thirty year period (Delacour 1977). They disappeared from collections in the 1930s and very few, if any, have been imported to Europe or America since. Currently, there are no Western Tragopans in captivity in the United States.

Misc. Aviculture Notes: A great deal of information will be gathered over the coming months as this species is currently being kept in captivity in the Himachal Pradesh India with the help of the World Pheasant Association.

Visitor Submitted Notes: The following was provided by John Corder, December 27, 2004:

First, I should make clear that any tragopans at Sarahan Pheasantry are only there because local people have rescued them when they have been driven down by the winter snows. The Pheasantry is situated in the Himalayas and is situated at just under 8,000 ft. Obviously, because only sick birds are rescued and taken there, they are not very healthy when they arrive, so survival rates in the past have not been very high. However, in 1993, they managed to hatch and raise one chick under a broody hen, the only bird raised in captivity during the whole 20th Century.
Two of the staff from Sarahan, B.L.Negi & Alam Singh, spent a couple of weeks training at our Downlands pheasantry in the UK in Jan/Feb 2003 and the knowledge and skills they acquired have paid immense dividends. The conditions now provided for the birds are as good as any I have seen worldwide, and they have developed a diet from locally available resources which replicates very closely that used by wild birds. The long-term aim in HImachal Pradesh is to establish a conservation breeding project for this (and other HImalayan pheasant species) which is capable of providing a regular number of birds for re-introduction. As well as this conservation breeding project, field research is already under way to determine the best sites for re-introductions. What is already clear from other re-introductions in which WPA is involved, is that a number of key factors need to be taken into account to give any chance of success. In our experience, some of the key factors are:
1. Young birds to be re-introduced must be parent-reared.
2. Young birds to be re-introduced should spend the whole winter with their parents, learning the life skills that will be required for survival.
3. Parent birds should be experienced at parent-rearing; the greater their experience, the more "survival" information they can provide to their progeny.
4. Aviaries for parent birds should be sufficiently large to allow them to rear a whole family of young throughout the following winter under natural conditions without them destroying the natural foliage within the aviary.
5. Parent-birds should be helped to accept their captive conditions so that they do not live their lives under stress. It is comparatively easy (with a pheasant) to teach it to distrust humans at a later stage, once the birds for release have been relocated to their release aviary in the release site. Parent birds that are not under stress breed much more successfully and raise much better quality young.
Since the UK training and with further training from WPA in Sarahan, no Western Tragopan has died there, and the first breeding efforts from a young pair were attempted in 2004.
Last year we attached rings on all the birds that were at the Sarahan Pheasantry, and I have enclosed a couple of photos of this, plus the team who look after the birds there. The unique numbers on these rings will be used once an international studbook for Western Tragopans is established.
In April 2004, WPA held its tri-annual International Symposium in India. After the Symposium, I was able to take a group of enthusiasts to Himachal Pradesh, where they were able to have a unique insight into the breeding programme for these pheasants. Two of us were extremely fortunate to see one of the males displaying, and I have attached a photo of the lappet display and another of it "disking". By the way, the male doing the display is the 11 year old bird bred there in 1993. I hope this goes to show how much expertise is being developed at Sarahan, particularly with Alam Singh Chauhan, who has been the Forest Guard in charge of the pheasantry for around 18 years.


cline01 (1K)

Images

Click on thumbnails for larger views.

1 2 3

Photo Credits
(l to r): 1-3, John Corder.

cline01 (1K)

Bibliography and Further Reading

  • Delacour, J. 1977. The Pheasants of the World. 2nd ed., World Pheasant Association and Spur Publications, Hindhead, U.K.
  • Delacour, J. 1978. Pheasants: Their Care and Breeding. T.F.H. Publishing, Neptune, NJ.
  • Grimmett, R., Inskipp, C., Inskipp, T. 2000. Birds of Nepal. Christopher Helm, London; Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
  • Howman, K. 1991. Pheasants of the World: Their Breeding and Management. Hancock House Publishers, Surrey, B.C. Canada.
  • Johnsgard, P.A. 1999. The Pheasants of the World: Biology and Natural History. 2nd ed., Smithsonian Press, Washington D.C.
  • Madge, S., McGowan, P. 2002. Pheasants, Partridges, and Grouse. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

cline01 (1K)

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