Satyr Tragopan

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Scientific name: Tragopan satyra

Other common names: Crimson Horned Pheasant; Indian Tragopan; Crimson Tragopan

The basics:
The Satyr Tragopan is a high altitude pheasant of dark, dense mountain forests. In Bhutan, the bird is not hunted for religious reasons, but elsewhere it is victim of the one-two punch of habitat destruction and hunting for food. As the situation bears watching, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has rated the species as “near threatened.” Like many mountain species, it's an altitudinal migrant – in summer, it visits its breeding ranges which may be as high as 14,000 feet; while in winter, it avoids the worst of the weather by descending to as low as 6,000 feet. In aviculture, they're probably not as well-known as they should be. Those keepers lucky enough to have owned Satyr Tragopan's recommend them for their personality and their natural tameness, as well as their cold hardiness.

The tragopan genus, including the Satyr Tragopan, is noteworthy for two reasons. First, they are an arboreal group that builds a twig nest in a tree, unlike most pheasants. Second, the male possesses inflatable horns and bib, which you usually can't see, until he goes into his courtship dance.

The adult male Satyr Tragopan is a stunning bird with a crimson neck, breast, and belly which contrasts with its brown upperparts. These lovely feathers are accented with small white spots outlined in black. Like the better-known Temminck's Tragopan, the face is a brilliant bright blue which shows very well in contrast to the black head. The center of the crest is black, backed up by an under-crest of bright red-orange. However, you can easily distinguish males of the two species, since Temminck's have an orange-red rather than a brown back. The cryptically scaled females are a tougher job. In general, the female Satyr is a larger, more rufous bird, but if you are a newbie and don't have both species to compare, you must rely on a more knowledgeable breeder to make the identification.

Average weight:
1 - 2 kilograms (2.2 - 4.4 lbs.)

15 - 20 years

Satyr Tragopans are considered generally hardy birds if kept in a large, well-drained aviary that gives them plenty of room to play and grab fresh greenery on the hoof. However, you will also want a good veterinarian to advise you on the proper de-worming schedule, vaccinations, and other medical treatments needed to keep them in the very best of health.

Behavior / temperament:
All tragopans, including Satyr Tragopans, have an enviable reputation for being naturally tame species highly regarded by those lucky enough to own them. These playful, active pheasants can learn to fly to your hand for treats or just for fun, which makes them rewarding companions as well as beautiful aviary birds with a fascinating courtship display.

The name “Satyr” refers to the horns, not to a lifestyle, and the Satyr Tragopan enjoys living in monogamous pairs in a huge, well-planted aviary of at least 400 square feet, with a breeding platform and night roosting perches placed high off the ground. Include plenty of edible greens like chickweed in the planted vegetation, as well as shrubs or small trees for flying, climbing, and playing. Be sure they have adequate cover to protect against direct sunlight as well as extremes of weather.

In the wild, Satyr Tragopans 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 waterfowl or pheasant pellet, supplemented with seeds and grains; romaine and spinach; 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. The diet has been somewhat debated over the years, but breeders concur that it's valuable to supply lots of greens such as romaine and chickweed. Make sure they always have a source of clean water.

Written by Elaine Radford

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