This pheasant's small population is naturally fragmented because it lives in small patches of successional grassland. Human population pressure, grazing pressure from livestock, hunting and changing patterns of land-use are resulting in its decline within this habitat, so it qualifies as Vulnerable. Some recent information puts the population size at a lower level than was previously estimated. If these estimates are confirmed, the species may warrant uplisting to Endangered.
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Catreus wallichii Collar and Andrew (1988), Catreus wallichii Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993), Catreus wallichii wallichii Collar and Andrew (1988), Catreus wallichii wallichii Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993)
Distribution and populationCatreus wallichi
Male 90-118 cm, female 61-76 cm. Grey, brown and buff bar-tailed pheasant with long crest and red facial skin. Male has largely plain pale-greyish upper neck and clear, dark barring on upperparts. Female is smaller, somewhat duller and more heavily marked. Similar spp. Possibly confusable with female Kalij Pheasant Lophura leucomelanos, but rather pale neck and underparts with dark scaling/mottling rufous-buff to buffish-washed rump, belly and vent, and long, straight barred tail distinctive. Voice Loud chir-a-pir chir-a-pir chir chir-chirwa chirwa and high, piercing chewewoo notes, interspersed with short chut and harsh staccato notes.
occurs in the western Himalayas from north Pakistan
, through Kashmir into Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, India
, and east to central Nepal
(BirdLife International 2001,
Keane et al.
in press). It has always been reported as uncommon with a patchy distribution owing to its specialised habitat requirements, which often bring it into close proximity to human populations (K. Ramesh in litt.
. Many subpopulations are thought to number fewer than 10 individuals, living in small pockets of suitable habitat. In Pakistan, it may now only persist in the Jhelum Valley. In India, it has declined, with most known populations now confined to Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The area in and around Majathal Wildlife Sanctuary appears to be important with densities of 24 pairs/km2
recorded during 1983 and recent reports confirming the notion that a sizeable population remains (Subedi 2003). The population in the Kai-i-nag area of Kashmir is also thought to be sizeable (R. Kaul in litt.
. In Nepal, it appears to be localised, occurring from the Baitadi district in the west, east to the Kali Gandaki River. The most important area in the country is Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve (C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt.
2012). Surveys conducted here in 1981 and 2003 revealed a slight decline, with a corrected population estimate of 127-212 birds in the valley, but this trend was not statistically significant (Subedi 2003). Areas surrounding Dhorpatan have also been found to support populations at similar densities of 5-10 birds/km2
with corrected population estimates of 56-71 individuals in the Bobang area, 19-22 individuals in Adlikari area and 61-127 individuals in the Muri area, all just outside the reserve (Singh et al.
. Small populations were identified at Trikuta and within Rara National Park in 2005 and local reports during that survey indicated that the species occurs more widely within Mugu and Jumla districts (Bhudathapa 2006)
. Surveys in Rara National Park in 2006 and 2008 indicate that the population there is no longer viable, while anecdotal evidence from local shepherds suggests that the species is in decline (Singh 2009) and visiting birdwatchers are finding it more difficult to locate the species (C. Inskipp in litt.
2009). Apparent declines at Ghansa suggest it may have declined overall in Nepal, but the level of threat remains low in parts of its range (Acharya and Thapa 2003); the total Nepalese population is thought likely to number fewer than 1,500 individuals (C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt.
2012). The increasing number of new locations following an increase in survey effort indicates that further areas will be found to support the species in suitable habitat. Population justification
The population is estimated to number 4,000-6,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 2,700-4,000 mature individuals (R. Kaul in litt.
This species appears to be particularly vulnerable to hunting pressure as it has a strong association with human settlements, relying on low-level anthropogenic disturbance to maintain its preferred habitat. Hunting pressure and habitat fragmentation are suspected to be causing a moderate decline.Ecology
It is resident in precipitous, rocky terrain dominated by scrub, tall grass and scattered clumps of trees, most frequently from 1,445-3,050 m, but occasionally down to 950 m at least (Bisht et al.
2007). Occupied sites are characterised by a combination of low shrubs subject to regular browsing and cutting, with grass growing through spring and summer harvested for livestock fodder in the autumn. It has been recorded in regenerating coniferous and broadleaved forests, as well as juniper and rhododendron on grassy slopes (Subedi 2003). Its preference for early successional habitats, often created by traditional grass cutting and burning regimes, has led to an association with human settlements (and therefore high susceptibility to hunting). It digs for roots and tubers, and also eats seeds, berries, insects and grubs (Ali and Ripley 1987). It has been recorded breeding in India in May, June and September with clutch sizes of 6-12 eggs (Bisht et al.
Having been widely shot for sport in the early 20th century, it is still hunted for food and trade, and its eggs are collected for local consumption. Indeed, hunters in Nepal claim that they can trap up to 50 birds in one session through the use of snares and live decoys (Singh 2009), methods that are widespread in the species's range (P. Garson in litt.
2009). Hunting pressure in Nepal may be exacerbated by increased gun-ownership following the Maoist insurgency, especially in the west of the country (C. Inskipp in litt.
2009). The patchy nature of its specialised habitat may render the smallest isolated populations vulnerable to extinctions, and higher levels of disturbance, grazing and the felling of wooded ravines now pose a substantial threat. In particular, hunting pressure and habitat destruction by fire and overgrazing have been implicated in its decline in Pakistan (Subedi 2003)
, however, these human controlled practices are also important in maintaining moderately disturbed habitats which the species favours. Similarly, disturbance from understorey grass collection, fires, overgrazing and fuelwood collection are cited as threats to the species in cheer pine and mixed pine forest in Uttarakhand district (Bisht et al.
2007). The threats of hunting pressure, uncontrolled forest fires, livestock grazing and the collection of non-timber forest products are also said to have likely become more prevalent in the protected areas of Nepal during the insurgency period of 1996-2006 when, for example, Rara National Park effectively lost its boundary owing to the abandonment of its buffer zone management plan (Singh 2009, C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt.
2012). Conversion of grassland to permanent arable terraces is reducing available habitat, as are schemes to plant mid-altitude grasslands with forest. A key requirement for the long-term survival of this species will be to strike a balance between maintaining the low intensity human practices on which the species relies (as they maintain plagioclimax habitats), while limiting hunting pressure. This balance appears to be possible, as in parts of its Indian range the species is reportedly not hunted regularly because it is not considered good to eat. Conservation actions underway
CITES Appendix I. The species is legally protected in Nepal and India and occurs in a number of protected areas in those countries. Many status surveys have now been conducted in Himachal Pradesh, principally a week-long intensive survey involving 3,000 Forest Department staff in 2005, which was scheduled for repeat in 2008 (L. Mohan in litt.
2007), and Uttarakhand, India (Bish et al.
2007), and in Nepal using a standardised call count methodology along with research into population ecology and habitat preferences (Subedi 2003, Garson and Baral 2006). Surveys have been undertaken in Rara National Park, mid-western Nepal, in 2006 and 2008 (Singh 2009). An awareness-raising project was carried out in the Kali Gandaki Valley by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project, the World Pheasant Association and Bird Conservation Nepal in 2004. Reintroduction in Pakistan has been unsuccessful. A workshop was held in Kathmandu in April 2006 to share information gathered in five separate studies within the species's range (Garson and Baral 2006). Conservation actions proposed
Survey areas where populations have been identified but not yet studied, particularly in western Nepal. Monitor populations at as many key sites as possible, and manage habitat at these sites, using moderate burning and grazing to maintain optimal conditions. Develop a species management plan to cover habitat prescriptions, public awareness and the enforcement of hunting bans. Study burning and grazing regimes at known sites to monitor their impact. Use it as a flagship species in producing and promoting habitat management recommendations based on these studies. Control poaching using legal enforcement and public awareness programmes. Initiate ecotourism projects to generate income at Cheer Pheasant sites (A. Rahmani in litt.
2012). Assess the effects of villagers upon the species and its habitat. Conduct further research into its ecology. Conserve key sites and habitats.
Ali, S.; Ripley, S. D. 1987. Compact handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan together with those of Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Oxford University Press, Delhi.
BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
Subedi, P. 2003. Status and distribution of Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichi) in Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, Nepal.
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.
Garson, P.; Baral, H. S. 2006. Cheer Pheasant conservation summit in Kathmandu. Annual Review of the World Pheasant Association 2005/2006: 14-15.
Bisht, M. S.; Phurailatpam, S.; Kathait, B. S. 2005. Nesting ecology and breeding success of Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii in Garhwal Himalaya, India. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 102(3): 287-289.
Singh, P. B.; Paudel, L.; Sharma, S. 2006. Survey of cheer pheasant Catreus wallichi in and around Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, Western Nepal.
Acharya, B.; Thapa, S. 2003. Preliminary survey of Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichi) in lower Kaligandaki valley, Mustang.
Bisht, M. S.; Phurailatpam, S.; Kathait, B. S.; Dobriyal, A. K.; Chandola-Saklani, A.; Kaul, R. 2007. Survey of threatened Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii in Garhwal Himalaya. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 104(2): 134-139.
Singh, P. 2009. Cheer Pheasant in peril in Rara National Park, Nepal. World Pheasant Association News: 4.
Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).
View 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., Khwaja, N., Taylor, J.
Acharya, R., Baral, H., Bashir, S., Corder, J., Garson, P., Inskipp, C., Kaul, R., Mohan, L., Rahmani, A., Ramesh, K., Singh, P., Subedi, P.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Catreus wallichi. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 21/05/2013.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 21/05/2013.
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.
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Additional resources for this species