Popular Posts


All images © Prashant and Sharang, unless specifically credited.. Powered by Blogger.

Himalayan monal (Male): Lophophorus impejanus

Himalayan monal (Male)
Lophophorus impejanus
Himalayan monal: Lophophorus impejanus
Gender: Male
IUCN Status: Least Concern
Sighted at: Four distinct sightings between 2500 – 3500 m ASL.
Monal is the monarch of the bugyals and alpine forests of Uttarakhand. The Himalayan Monal is accorded the status of State Bird of Uttarakhand in India, and National Bird of Nepal. He is the most stunning bird of the montane region of Himalayas – from Kashmir to Bhutan – ruling the gentle curved bugyals and moist mixed forests from within his palace in rhododendron thickets at 1500m ASL or so onwards, as well as, the steep rocky slopes of alpine forests in his realm up to altitudes of 4000m ASL.
His plumage is iridescent armour of glittering metallic colours – black underneath, blue, green, copper, yellow, purple, white patch on back, a cinnamon brown tail and just about any colour with the changing angle of light falling on his plumage. His head is shimmering green and wears a crest of spatulated green shimmering feathers that tremble like emeralds hanging from stalks of a crown with every movement of his head and neck. In flight, he reveals a white horseshoe pattern on upper tail-coverts and a narrow white tip to tail. Truly, he is ‘a bird of nine colours’ as the locals call him.
The emerald jewels he wears as a crown was the reason he was hunted down in the past – royalty and important people of this mountainous belt wore his crest upon their turbans as a symbol of power. It is a miracle caused by efforts of conservationists that the monals are not rated as ‘vulnerable’ or ‘endangered’ as some others pheasants of the region.
My own expensive upgradation of photographic equipment and the long journey from Delhi and a tedious climb on foot – which ultimately floored me and ended my trip - with due respect to other bird species, was my way of homing-on on the Himalayan monal. Tungnath, Chopta and the climb to these places to spot the royal pheasant were always discussed in hushed reverential tones among colleagues who were interested in birding. It was considered a difficult enterprise – they all aren’t the fittest of men anymore - and one had to be lucky to come away with a ‘sighting’ after all the effort. Or so they all said. It grated – plans would be made and dropped and drawn up again and again dropped. And so on and so forth. My own fitness was going downhill given the sedentary nature of my current charge. I was crushed between a built up desire to spot a monal and passage of time, health and opportunities - eventually squeezed to a ‘now or never’ point. Sharang - who was stopping over on his own seminar-conference journey - and I, headed to Daryaganj, upgraded the photographic equipment – there was no way I was going to undertake this do-or-die trip with my trusty but rudimentary Nikon D5100 in expected low-light or snow-bright conditions. I dropped Sharang off at the airport later that evening and within a couple of hours of that, in the early hours of morning, I whizzed off on my ‘hunt’ for the Himalayan monals. No second-guessing myself. Expense, fitness and consumption of leave be damned – who knows about tomorrow, there may be none!
Garuda - the Lord of Birds – must have heard my plea clearly in that crisp pious air of the Himalayas and decided to bless me. Since my intensity was to sight monals, Garuda blessed me with as many as five sightings (Four distinct monals in five instances). In exchange, perhaps, Lord Garuda sent me home afterwards instead of allowing me to spot hundreds of other bird species of the region. I had three days more to spend but couldn’t.
I spotted the female monal only in flight on one instance. I could not spot them among the rhododendron thickets in low-light conditions on the mountainside. The female is not as colourful, though no less regal in stature. The female is a palette of earthy shades of brown to black with white neck patch, white streaks, short crest and bright blue orbital skin. Like mascara sported by human counterparts.  It is entirely possible the period I was there coincided with the nesting period of monals. Females incubate the eggs alone while the male potters around on guard and foraging duty. Could be one of the reasons I couldn’t spot the females. The must have been well camouflaged in the low-light among the brown thickets with patches of snow here and there. The other reason could be I wasn’t patient enough. I wasn’t going to go up or down the steep inclines and disturb the birds anyway or break my neck. I spent a fair bit of time waiting but all in vain.
The monals, like others Galliformes, have strong beaks and feet with which they can plough the moist soil for tubers, roots, buried worms, slugs, and the general pheasant family cuisine. They also eat berries.
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum:    Chordata
Class:         Aves
Order:       Galliformes
Family:     Phasianidae
Genus:      Lophophorus
Species:    impejanus
In Nepal it is also called Impeyan instead of monal after Lady Impey, wife of the colonial Chief Justice of Bengal who used to keep them in captivity. It was a different world then, one must keep that in mind; however, Lady Impey is immortalized by naming the species after her. That’s one way of acquiring species that do not belong to colonial powers! The other is of course the trade/economic forums of today.
The biggest threat to monals continues to be man and his expansive endeavours. We eat into their habitat on some pretext or the other. Hydroelectric power dams are the current reason for loss of habitat.
Photographed at Chopta-Tungnath mountainside, Uttarakhand, India, on 1st May, 2015, using a Nikon D7200 camera and Tamron 150-600 mm lens.

< >


  1. I like your article because You present the the great information about Himalayan Monal bird. I also like this Himalayan Monal Bird Images , eggs , chicks images.

  2. Is sex dirty? Only when it’s being done right. Hey, i am looking for an online sexual partner ;) Click on my boobs if you are interested (. )( .)