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Tibetan Eared Pheasant

Crossoptilon harmani

The Tibetan eared pheasant, also known as Elwes' eared pheasant, is a striking bird with a distinctive appearance. It boasts a length of 75 to 85 cm, with the males being marginally larger than the females. Both sexes exhibit a similar plumage pattern. The bird's beak is a reddish-brown hue, while its irises are a vibrant yellowish-orange. The legs and bare facial skin are a bold red. A crown of dense, black feathers adorns the head, flanked by short ear tufts that do not project outward. The head, nape, and a slender collar are white, contrasting with the bluish-grey body, wings, and tail. The mantle, neck, and breast are a darker shade of blue-grey, while the lower back, rump, upper tail coverts, and belly are a paler whitish-grey. The wings are tinged with blackish-brown, and the tail is a bluish-black.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Tibetan eared pheasant, look for the red facial skin, yellowish-orange irises, and the unique combination of white and bluish-grey plumage. The short, nonprojecting ear tufts are also a key feature to distinguish it from other species.

Habitat

The Tibetan eared pheasant is found in boreal and temperate forests, favoring bushy and grassy clearings, rhododendron thickets, and tall dense scrub in valleys.

Distribution

This species is native to southeast Tibet and adjacent northern India, typically residing at elevations between 3,000 and 5,000 meters, although it may descend to 2,280 meters in the winter months.

Behaviour

These birds are social, often forming groups of up to 10 individuals. They forage on the ground, sifting through plant debris and grasses near woodland edges and within rhododendron and juniper scrub. Their behavior can vary depending on human activity; they may be elusive in hunted areas, but quite bold where they are not disturbed.

Breeding

The Tibetan eared pheasant is believed to form monogamous pair bonds in the spring. Females lay eggs from May to July and are solely responsible for incubation. Both parents have been observed feeding the chicks.

Similar Species

The Tibetan eared pheasant is similar to the white eared pheasant (C. crossoptilon), sharing many characteristics, calls, and even hybridizing with it in the Salween Valley, suggesting they may be conspecific.

Diet and Feeding

These pheasants feed on the ground, foraging through plant debris and grasses near woodland edges and among rhododendron and juniper scrub.

Conservation status

The Tibetan eared pheasant is classified as "Near Threatened" by the IUCN. The species faces threats from habitat destruction and hunting, as well as a decrease in suitable roosting sites.

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