The pleasure of bird watching isn’t easily summed up. Is the draw the thrill of hurrying after plumule rarities? The sheer therapeutic pleasure in seeking out and observing our feathered friends? Is it the quiet calm of nature, as soothing to the soul as the chirping of a joyous chorale is contagious? Is it effort and reward, delayed gratification maybe? Birds do have a habit of revealing their beauty in a minx like flash, that is to say, in the strangest of places, at any given time, and then just like that, poof their gone! One thing is for sure, all avian admirers know the pursuit of birds will undoubtedly lead you to some wonderous places, and the kingdom of Bhutan, home to over 700 species of exotic, migratory, vulnerable, rare, and accidental is no exception.
The Crimson Horned Pheasant:
If your held captive by the prismatic plumages and mating calls of those that grace the skies, Bhutan is a must. Skulking amongst the moist thick undergrowth of the oak and juniper forests of Bhutan, at elevations of 8,000 to 14,000ft, is a dapper chap known as the ‘Crimson Horned Pheasant’, or (Satyr Tragopan). A bird whose detailed patterns and elaborate courting display, are as novel as they are memorable. This dandy wears a crown of ebony feathers, around his eyes a smattering of royal blue, his breast cardinal red, plump and peppered with snowy white orbs; on his back a coat of cinnamon, the tail of which is jet black. Mating season for the crimson horned pheasant is between April and May, and it is then all who see this bird must marvel. Concealed under his ebony crown and tufted neck respectively, are two inflatable horns, and a glorious wattle, both neon beryl blue. Either side of this attractive bird’s wattle bears streaks of cherry red, and his whole display simply screams 'Mesozoic Theropod'. What female of the species, or 'twitcher' could resist?
Did you know:
1. In Bhutan, your most likely to spot the ‘Crimson Horned Pheasant’ while hiking through Jigme Dorji National Park.
2. A male Tragopan is unable to breed until he is at least 2 years of age, it will also take roughly 2 years for him to develop his full adult plumage.
3. The Crimson Horned Pheasant is partial to bamboo shoots, rhododendron seeds, and onion bulbs, yes onion bulbs!
The Rufous-necked hornbill:
Although found in many countries, it is now rare to sight this burly, sexually dimorphic bird in much of its historical range. Reaching lengths of over a metre, with a wingspan of 60 inches, weighing in at a hefty 5.5lbs, sadly the Rufous-necked hornbill has been declared extinct in Nepal, and is almost extinct in Vietnam. This striking bird nests and breeds in the mature temperate broadleaf and mixed coniferous forests of Bhutan. The rufous seems to prefer nesting in the Schima khasiana tree, an evergreen from which single cup-shaped flowers bloom. The dome, neck, and chest of the male is as its name suggests, a glossy copper red, (Rufous). The remainder of its plumage is a mix of Brunswick green and lustrous black, its tail feathers winter white. The female on the other hand is jet black, except for the tips of the middle primaries, which too are white. What stands out most about the hornbill is its brightly coloured throat and 13-inch beak. Elongated and horn like, it is a vibrant lemon yellow, either side marked with black racing stripes, its throat a mix of vivid pinks and blues.
Did you know:
Remarkably, the female of this species spends 4 months of the year behind closed doors. The female, in a bid to keep potential predators such as snakes and squirrel monkeys away from her precious eggs, simply shuts the world out. Using semi-digested leaves, oil globules, and regurgitated mud to create her very own bastille, she seals herself in, leaving a slit about a half inch wide, just enough to allow her partner to pass her food.
Hornbills are generally monogamous, most mate for life, and for this reason the natives in Bhutan believe they are a symbol of purity, fidelity, and luck.
The female of this species is deadlier than the male! Though males are larger, they shy away from a good dust up. The female however, is happy to put her dukes up, and take on monkeys, monitor lizards, and snakes!
With their chirrups, warbles and trills, detailed patterns, and plumages; the many hues of which are perfectly matched and blended, birds seem to be always inviting us in. Many birders say the only way to truly appreciate our feathered friends, is to seek them out in the very bio-networks they have helped to create and inhabit. Check in with 'Trouvailles Talks' again soon for information on the Ward's Trogon and the colourful Blyth's Kingfisher.
If you are interested in learning more about Trouvailles 'Birding Tours', please call 020 3877 0670.