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GenusCatreus (1)Although perhaps rather drab in comparison to other pheasant species, the cheer pheasant is no less distinctive (2) (4), with a narrow, brown hair-like crest a distinguishing feature. Cheer pheasant biologyThese pheasants tend to be fairly gregarious for much of the year, aggregating into flocks of five to fifteen birds, but form monogamous pairs during the breeding season from late April to June (8). Cheer pheasant habitatFound in rocky, precipitous terrain dominated by scrub, grass and stunted trees, mostly between 1,200 and 3,250 metres above sea level (2) (6).
Cheer pheasant threatsA growing human population, changing patterns of land use and hunting have all placed enormous pressures on the cheer pheasant population and contributed to its decline.
Cheer pheasant conservationThe cheer pheasant is legally protected in Nepal and India, and occurs in at least 12 protected areas in Himachal Pradesh, three in Uttar Pradesh and three in Nepal (6). AuthenticationThis information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible.
GenusPolyplectron (1)The mountain peacock-pheasant has a dark-grey head and neck, black breast, and chestnut coloured mantle and wings, which are adorned with small bluish-green ocelli (eyelike spots of colour) (2) (4). Mountain peacock-pheasant biologyLittle is known about the mountain peacock-pheasant, but the bird is generally presumed to be solitary in the wild, although possibly occurring in pairs or small groups during part of the year. Mountain peacock-pheasant habitatLower and upper montane evergreen forest from approximately 820 metres to 1,600 metres, although once found at 1,800 metres (2). Mountain peacock-pheasant threatsFortunately, the limited habitat where this bird is found has not been under any great threat since it is not ideal for human settlement, agricultural use or traditional logging. Mountain peacock-pheasant conservationThe mountain peacock-pheasant occurs in at least three protected areas, Taman Negara, Krau Wildlife Reserve and the very small Frasera€™s Hill Wildlife Sanctuary (2).
The male cheer pheasant has red facial skin, buff-grey plumage with black bars and markings, and a long tail, strongly barred with buff, black and brown (4) (5) (6).

Clutch sizes are relatively large, usually comprising ten to eleven eggs, though as many as 14 have been reported (2) (7) (8). Also known from burnt, felled and cut-over areas of mixed pine, juniper, fir and rhododendron forest with secondary growth (2). The species was widely shot for sport in the early 20th Century, and is still hunted intensively for food and its eggs are collected for local consumption (6). In 1978, the World Pheasant Association (WPA) began donating aviary-laid eggs and young to Pakistan for a captive-breeding scheme in which the individuals were raised in captivity and then released into the wild (7). Females are smaller than males, have smaller black ocelli, and a shorter, less graduated tail with almost no ocelli (2). Like most other pheasants, this bird is believed to be active during the day, with a relatively small home range (5). The Malaysian Wildlife Department has also established an international conservation breeding programme with the World Pheasant Association to try to ensure the continued survival of this species (6). To learn about climate change and the species that are affected, visit our climate change pages.
The female is smaller than the male, somewhat duller in plumage and more heavily marked, with reduced red facial skin, a shorter crest and lacking the malea€™s spurs (4) (5) (6). The nest is typically located at the foot of a rocky crag on steep hillsides, usually well hidden in grasses, bushes or bracken (2) (8). Whilst hunting has probably been the greatest pressure on populations, habitat loss and alteration are also real problems, with grassland and scrubland areas being heavily grazed and converted to agriculture, and timber collection and medicinal plant collection causing further degradation (7). Sadly, the reintroduction attempts in Pakistan were unsuccessful, with no long-term survivors, and the project has therefore been abandoned (6) (7). The male territorial call is a series of one to four fairly loud, harsh clucks or squawks (2). Mating is thought to occur either with multiple partners or with a series of successive partners.

To aid this, an International Studbook was published in 1992 as a measure to conserve the captive gene pool for the future, and is jointly managed by the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks and the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo, New York (5). The eggs are incubated for 26 days (in captivity) by the female, although the male usually remains close by (2) (8), and will help brood and protect the newly hatched chicks (7). The patchy, dispersed nature of this birda€™s specialised habitat is of considerably concern, particularly for the smallest isolated subpopulations, many of which are thought to number fewer than ten individuals. Protection of the cheer pheasanta€™s remaining populations, and conservation of its natural habitat, must therefore remain a priority in the battle to safeguard its continued existence (9). In captivity, it has been noted that the mountain peacock-pheasant can start to breed at less than one year old, although most pairs do not breed until two years old, and some at three. Captive-bred populations not only provide a buffer against total extinction, but also provide the potential for re-introductions into the wild. If very young chicks are disturbed, both parents will perform a distraction display and the male will threaten the intruder (7).Most of the cheer pheasanta€™s food is believed to be dug from the ground with its powerful beak, and includes roots, tubers, bulbs, buried seeds, grubs, beetles, snails, insect larvae and worms. Not only are these small populations vulnerable to the damaging effects of inbreeding, but the fragmented nature of their habitat renders them at risk of higher levels of disturbance, grazing, hunting and wood-felling, and thus of extinction (6).
The male displays in a similar fashion to other Polyplectron species, walking around a shrub several times, emerging with head held high, rustling feathers, and hissing or squeaking (5). Indeed, the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks, aided by the World Pheasant Association, is currently using captive stock in a re-introduction project to bolster numbers in the wild (7), and a number of UK-bred birds have recently been returned to Malaysia to strengthen the mountain peacock-pheasanta€™s wild population in its native country (6). Seeds, berries, grasses and leaves from above ground may also feature in the diet (2) (5) (7). Such conservation efforts are positive steps towards saving and preserving this little-understood bird in its natural environment.

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