email a friend
printable version
Western Tragopan Tragopan melanocephalus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species is classified as Vulnerable because its small and sparsely distributed population is declining and becoming increasingly fragmented in the face of continuing forest loss and degradation throughout its restricted range. Recent estimates suggest the population size may be smaller than previously thought, in light of which the species may warrant uplisting to Endangered.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Male 68-73 cm, female 60 cm. Typical tragopan, with orange to red collar, red facial skin and white-spotted, black belly. Similar spp. Confusion could arise with Satyr Tragopan T. satyra in the south-east of its range, although recent surveys suggest that the two species only occur sympatrically in one area of Uttarakhand where they occur in a single catchment. Male differs from that species primarily by red facial skin and mostly black base-colour of lower breast to vent, female has a noticeably duller and greyer base-colour to upperparts and, in particular, underparts. Voice Territorial call, nasal, wailing khuwaah, repeated 7-15 times during the breeding season. Abrupt waa waa waa when agitated.

Distribution and population
Tragopan melanocephalus has a disjunct distribution in the western Himalayas (A. Rahmani in litt. 2012), occurring from Indus-Kohistan district, north Pakistan, east through Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh to Uttarakhand, north-west India (BirdLife International 2001). Although historically described as scarce and local, a mid-1980s population estimate of 1,600-4,800 birds was revised in the mid-1990s to c.5,000 birds following the discovery of several significant populations in north Pakistan, the largest of which (tentatively estimated at 325 pairs) is in Palas Valley. Recent reports of additional populations in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Pakistan) and Himachal Pradesh (India) as well as new data confirming its occurrence in Uttarakhand suggest that the population may require further upward revision in the future (K. Ramesh in litt. 2007). However, there is also recent evidence suggesting that call count methodologies overestimate true population densities as many calls may refer to unpaired males and hence simply doubling the number of calling birds is unlikely to accurately reflect the size of a breeding population. Along with declines since the 1990s, this may mean the population size is significantly lower than 5,000 individuals. The prevalence of threats also implies that the population is now lower than this, and it has been suggested that there are now only 2,500-3,500 individuals remaining in the wild (S. Pandey per A. Rahmani in litt. 2012); however, surveys should be carried out to confirm this.

Population justification
A population estimate of at least 5,000 individuals is derived from Gaston et al. (1981b) and McGowan and Garson (1995). This is roughly equivalent to 3,300 mature individuals. Recent reports of additional populations in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan and Himachal Pradesh may lead to an increase in the estimated global population size in the future, although conversely it has been suggested that the world population in the wild has been reduced to 2,500-3,500 individuals (S. Pandey per A. Rahmani in litt. 2012), prompting the need for wider surveys.

Trend justification
The species's population is likely to be in decline given the combined threats of trapping, hunting, disturbance by humans and livestock, and habitat degradation (F. Buner in litt. 2012), but this decline has not been quantified and is not thought to be particularly severe, thus the rate of decline is suspected to be moderate.

During the breeding season (April-June), it inhabits little-disturbed temperate coniferous and deciduous forests, from 2,400-3,600 m. In winter, it makes very local altitudinal or lateral movements, to grassy or shrubby gulleys with less snow cover, between 1,750 m and 3,000 m.

Threats to the species are thought to have intensified in recent years (A. Rahmani in litt. 2012). Habitat degradation and fragmentation through subsistence farming, browsing of understorey shrubs by livestock, tree-lopping for animal fodder and fuelwood-collection are the main threats. Disturbance by grazers and particularly collectors of edible fungi and medicinal plants may seriously interfere with nesting. Hunting and trapping for its meat (especially in winter) and its decorative plumage pose additional threats, throughout Pakistan (R. Nawaz in litt. 2004), Himachal Pradesh and Chamba (India).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. It is afforded legal protection in both India and Pakistan. It occurs in national parks in both Pakistan and India, as well as in 10 wildlife sanctuaries. Discovery of the large Palas population triggered a major conservation initiative in the region for which this bird is the flagship species. A galliform monitoring and conservation project within the valley ended in 2010 (F. Buner in litt. 2012). Surveys have been conducted recently across most of its presumed range in Pakistan, and in Himachal Pradesh, where, in 2005, c.3,000 forest guards and officers were involved in a coordinated week long state-wide survey (L. Mohan in litt. 2007). It is currently the subject of a conservation breeding programme in Himachal Pradesh (J. Corder in litt. 2004), involving fewer than 10 pairs, which produce fewer than three broods each year (F. Buner in litt. 2012), with the long-term possibility of future releases of parent-reared offspring to augment/restock local wild populations (K. Ramesh in litt. 2007). Awareness-raising activities, field officer training and population surveys were conducted recently in Salkhala Game Reserve, Pakistan (Awan 2010). Surveys in Himachal Pradesh were initiated by the state wildlife department in 2011, and state-wide surveys were started there in 2012 (F. Buner in litt. 2012).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to increase knowledge of its current distribution and abundance, especially in Pakistani and Indian Kashmir, where very few data exist (F. Buner in litt. 2012). Initiate public awareness campaigns in and around known sites, highlighting its flagship status for the conservation of moist temperate forests and other pheasant species. Develop monitoring methods and then monitor key populations regularly. Study the ecology of radio-tagged birds (A. Rahmani in litt. 2012). Improve management in key protected areas. Extend the boundaries of Salkhala Game Reserve and implement a monitoring programme (Awan 2010).  Extend existing captive breeding programmes.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Anon. 2009. Conserving pheasants in Palas Valley, Pakistan. World Pheasant Association News: 16.

Awan, M. N. 2010. Status and conservation of Western Tragopan Pheasant in and around Salkhala Game Reserve, District Neelum, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. Final Progress Report Submitted to Oriental Bird Club. UK.

BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Chauhan, A. S.; Dhiman, S. P.; Mohan, L. 2008. Breeding the Western Tragopan at Sarahan Pheasantry. World Pheasant Association News: 14.

Chauhan, A. S.; Dhiman, S. P.; Mohan, L. 2008. Sarahan Pheasantry, Himachal Pradesh, India. International Zoo News 55(4): 248.

Collar, N. J.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2013. Conservation breeding and avian diversity: chances and challenges. International Zoo Yearbook.

Gaston, A. J.; Garson, P. J.; Hunter, M. L. 1981. Present distribution and status of pheasants in Himachal Pradesh, western Himalayas. World Pheasant Association Journal: 10-30.

Keane, A.M.; Garson, P.J.; McGowan, P.J. K. in press. Pheasants: status survey and conservation action plan 2005-2009. IUCN and WPA, Gland, Switzerland.

McGowan, P. J. K.; Garson, P. J. 1995. Pheasants: status survey and conservation action plan 1995-1999. International Union for Nature Conservation and Natural Resources and World Pheasant Association, Gland, Switzerland.

Singh, S.; Tu, F. 2008. A preliminary survey for Western Tragopan Tragopan melanocephalus in the Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary, Himachal Pradesh. Indian Birds 4(2): 42-55.

Tu, F. 2008. Daranghati: a haven for Western Tragopan. World Pheasant Association News: 7.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Keane, A., Taylor, J.

Awan, M., Bashir, S., Buner, F., Corder, J., Kaul, R., Mohan, L., Nawaz, R., Rahmani, A., Ramesh, K.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Tragopan melanocephalus. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Western tragopan (Tragopan melanocephalus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Phasianidae (Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse)
Species name author (Gray, 1829)
Population size 3300 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 21,600 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species