Satyr Tragopan in Bhutan

If the Himalayan Monals are the most dazzling member of the pheasant family in Bhutan, and the Blood Pheasants are the ones with the most character, the Satyr Tragopan must surely hold the title of the most elegant.

The Satyr Tragopan (Tragopan satyra) is also known as the Crimson Horned Pheasant. That describe the male bird perfectly. The crimson refers to the plumage and horn refers to the two fleshy blue horns that project above the eye during male displays. The female on the other hand is a drab brown bird.

We had the first opportunity to see the male bird on the way down from the monastery where we met the Himalayan Monals. It was late evening, and the light level was rather low when we saw a male by the roadside. Most encounters with the birds of the pheasant family are by the roadside. This time around the bird was actively foraging. The low light level coupled with a foraging bird meant we had a tough choice to make. Up the ISO and shutter speed and get a sharp but noisy picture, or lower the shutter speed and hope that there are times when the tragopan stop to pose. I chose the latter, and as such most of the pictures were unusable. Fortunately there are a few that are of reasonable quality. The thought was that tehre will be other encounters that will result in better photos.

Our next encounter was at another place in the morning by the roadside. This time around, although light level was fine, the background of the road made for a less interesting composition. So in the end, the first encounter was the best. If I were to return to Bhutan, the Satyr Tragopan will be high on the list of birds to photograph again.


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