Blood Pheasants of Bhutan

The Blood Pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus) is a species of pheasant roughly the size of chickens and are quite commonly found inhabiting the Himalayan range from Nepal, Bhutan, India, Tibet and across Myanmar to south-central China. The male and female differs in their plumage with the female being drab brown, and the male a showy bird with ashy upperparts, and with streaks of reds on the breast, collectively resembling dashes of blood, hence their name.

I had the opportunity to photograph and observed them while on a trip to Bhutan in April and May 2013.

In Bhutan, there are two subspecies of Blood Pheasants. The subspecies cruentus is found at the northwestern part of the country, and I first saw a pair in Chelela Pass. There are some authorities that believe this should be the subspecies affinis, but no matter. I am following IOC range distribution. We will let the taxonomist sort this out later.

Subspecies tibetanus occurs in the eastern part of Bhutan and I managed to see a few of them at Thrumshingla Pass. The fact that these two places are passes give you a clue as to their habitat, mountainous region near the snowline. The difference between the two subspecies is mainly the amount of red streaking on their chest, with the tibetanus subspecies more striking visually. You can see these subspecies in the photo gallery below.

Birding in Bhutan is mainly done by the road. Since the roads there are seldom busy, we ride slowly and hope to hear or see the birds along the way. The pheasants will oftentimes come up to the roadside to feed, and we will very slowly get our of the car from a distance away to observe them.

The males are highly territorial. When they hear another male in their territory they will run rather clumsily towards a higher ledge to call out their presence. The female on the other hand tends to be really quiet. On any photographic trip to Bhutan, the Blood Pheasants must rank quite highly on the list of birds to see.


Photo Gallery

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