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Himalayan Monal Pheasant

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Scientific name: Lophophorus impejanus

Other common names: Impeyan Monal; Impeyan Pheasant; Danphe

The basics:
The splendid Himalayan Monal Pheasant is an extremely successful and wide-ranging pheasant of the high open forests of the Himalayas and other mountainous areas roughly 2,400 to 4,500 meters in elevation. It's tolerant of cold, dry weather and has frequently been observed digging in the snow, but it does migrate to slightly lower elevations to escape the full brunt of winter. The basic pattern seems to be that it moves up to alpine meadows and other open spaces to breed, then down to forests for the winter. Beautiful and tough, the Himalayan Monal has been named the national bird of Nepal, and it attracts attention from aviculturists seeking a flashy yet cold-hardy species. While this bird is doing well in much of its range, it is rumored to be extirpated in Afghanistan.

Appearance:
A photograph can't do justice to the iridescent rainbow of colors found in the plumage in the adult male Himalayan Monal. A first impression is of a deep metallic blue bird, but the shimmer and sheen is more complex – green in the head, copper in the tail, and plenty of sparkle to spare in-between. A tall green crest completes the picture. As with most pheasants, the female is substantially more subdued, but her brownish plumage is accented by a dapper white throat. Both male and female have a blue eye ring.

Average weight:
1800 - 2350 grams (4 - 5 lbs.)

Lifespan:
7 - 12 years

Health:
While several deaths of Himalayan Monad Pheasants have been attributed to West Nile Virus, it's worth nothing that this species has always been considered at risk if kept in a damp area – decades before WNV entered the west. There should not be any standing water whatsoever in or near their pens, and their substrate must be well-drained. As with any other pheasant, you'll want to locate a good avian veterinarian experienced with pheasants to advise you on the necessary vaccinations, preventive medications, and so on. Since Himalayan Monads are diggers, expect the vet to recommend a good de-worming schedule.

Behavior / temperament:
The two main drawbacks of the Himalayan Monad is the very loud call and their deep-seated drive to dig. You can't break either of these instincts, so you must be far away enough from your neighbors that the call won't annoy them and you must be prepared to change your sod and other greenery regularly to keep the aviary looking its best. Otherwise, these big beauties are extremely well-regarded, since they are a calm, easy-going pheasant that shows well. The females in particular can become friendly and tame.

Housing:
As a species encountered at altitude, the Himalayan Monal 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. A practical design will include a large area of around 400 square feet that can't be destroyed 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. They need protection from the hot sun and direct sunlight, and they also appreciate a high perch in an open-front shelter for a night roost.

Diet:
In the wild, Himalayan Monal Pheasants 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 like apples and grapes; 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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