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Cheer Pheasant

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Scientific name: Catreus wallichi

Other common names: Wallich's Pheasant; Chir Pheasant

The basics:
The vulnerable Cheer Pheasant is a high altitude pheasant found in the Himalayas, where it must compete for limited remaining chir pine forest habitat with human nomads and their livestock. Like some other high altitude birds, they can be quite hardy and they seem to be doing well in aviculture, but they face challenges when breeders try to re-introduce them to their native environment, where conflicts with hunters and grazers continue. Indeed, at least one well-publicized reintroduction effort in Pakistan seems to have collapsed. Breed them to preserve them in aviculture, but be cautious about assuming your captive-reared birds will be able to help re-establish the wild species. As a unique species, the only member of its genus, the Cheer Pheasant is known to roost on and doggedly dig into the ground.

Appearance:
The alpine Cheer Pheasant is unlikely to be confused with any other bird you would meet on its home grounds. There's a bright red bare patch of skin around the eyes in both the elegant male and his plainer, browner consort. Even from a distance, you can spot the long gray crest and very long striped tail displayed by both sexes, but the male is particularly fine because of the dark black banding and longer tail feathers. The female's tail is banded in shades of brown and buff. Both sexes also have wonderfully marked body plumage when you get a close look at the scaling – again, the male's markings are darker and richer, but the female's brown scales have their own appeal.

Average weight:
907 - 1,360 grams (2 - 3 lbs.)

Lifespan:
7 - 12 years

Health:
Cheer Pheasants have a great reputation for hardiness, but since they can't resist digging into the ground, you will need a good veterinarian to advise you on the best schedule to keep them de-wormed.

Behavior / temperament:
Captive-bred Cheer Pheasants have been described as easy-going birds that seem to enjoy their humans. Breeders privileged to own these birds can't seem to say enough nice things about their charming personality. Unfortunately, they have an extremely loud call, which often makes them impractical for smaller suburban hobby farms with near neighbors. But if you have a large estate in a cooler climate and want an attractive pheasant that isn't too challenging for the beginner, it may be well worth your time to seek out the Cheer Pheasant.

Housing:
As a species encountered from 4,000 to 10,000 feet, the Cheer Pheasant is not a fainting flower, and it can be surprisingly tolerant of cold weather. However, if you think about the cold, clear air associated with high mountains like the Himalayas, you may understand why this species often demands special protection from the damp. Their home must be well-drained, no two ways about it. Of course, when planning any aviary, make sure that there is lots of space and sufficient shade, as well as a shelter from predators and the elements. This species can't resist digging, and if you don't have a rocky substrate, you will have to replace the grass or other ground cover fairly often.

Some people have tried raising their Cheer Pheasants on wire, but this experiment has two problems – it detracts from the beauty and natural behaviors of the bird, and some birds have injured themselves on the wire. It may be safer and more practical to have a large area that they can't destroy in an instant, with excellent drainage perhaps provided by a French drain style system - and you must still be prepared to replace the greenery quite often. Cheers are monogamous pheasants that do very well when kept in pairs, assuming the pen or aviary is sufficiently large. One breeder recommends a 25' by 10' pen – yes, that's 250 square feet. Be prepared to be generous with these special birds.

Diet:
Cheer Pheasants are not particularly difficult to feed. In the wild, they would forage for a rather omnivorous diet of grass, sprouts, and other vegetable matter, as well as whatever likely insects or bugs they could catch. The backbone of the captive diet is usually a high quality game bird crumble or pheasant pellet, supplemented with seeds and grains; sprouts, chopped fruits, milky seeding heads of grasses and other greens; and the usual commercially available live foods like mealworms, waxworms, and crickets. Make sure they always have a source of clean water.

Written by Elaine Radford

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