Kalij Pheasant – Corbett National Park – Wildlife – Avifauna
We have seen a very beautify bird, glossy blackish blue-grey pheasant, with white crest, larger than jungle fowl (about 70 cm long), on all our visits to Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand state of India. Its peculiar inverted v shaped tail makes it distinct. I looked at my old diary of a visit to Corbett on 13 February 1989 when I wrote, ‘We saw lot of jungle fowl and Kaleej scurrying in the bushes along the tracks.’
Kalij Pheasant (Lophura leucomelanos), which is found all along the foothills of the Himalaya is a sub-species (L. l. hamiltoni J.E. Gray, 1829 – white-crested kalij pheasant of Western Himalayas), one of the nine known sub-species world over. They feed on roots, seeds, small reptiles, insects and forest yams. They breed during May and June. Mostly, found in bushes at the edge of the road sides feeding on tit bits but as one approaches, it quickly disappears in the bushes. Rarely one can photograph it, unless one is on mission. Luckily, from conservation point of view, this species is safe and not listed under any of the threat categories.
During my recent visit to Corbett on 12-14 January 2016 too I saw it several times but one sighting was really different. On 14 January, we were driving on the main metalled road from Dhikala to Dhangarhi, when at a place between Khinanauli and Sarpduli FRHs, driver stopped the jeep suddenly and said, “See sir.”
We saw a Kalij male just outside the edge of the forest on a foot or so higher ground on right side of the road. It did not appear to be in a big rush. We had packed the camera but quickly pulled out the stuff and installed the lens. Soon the guy got off its high ground, hurried across the road, got onto a slightly higher ground on the left hand edge of the road and descended on the other side into the bushes.
I take few shots. Before, I was done, the driver pointed out “another one”. I thought now that we have another chance, I would concentrate on taking better shots.
What was interesting, this guy too followed the same routine and disappeared in the bushes on the left side of the road.
The luck was certainly on our side, for there appeared a female on the same high ground on the right and followed the same routine to cross the road and disappear in the bushes on the left side. The female, though not as colourful as male and somewhat smaller (about 55 cm) but was not as drab as females of some species of birds are. Large red patch around the eyes is conspicuous and the brown body is not muted colour but light and brighter.
And this continued, followed by a male, female, male and female, in all seven birds, at regular interval of may be a minute or so.
What was amazing, they were not much afraid of the presence of vehicle and people so near, and they crossed the road without much nervousness. Of course, few of them instead of walking, hurried across.
This was a train of Kalij, probably on a mission, or heading for a meeting, or may be part of marriage procession! God knows. Ways of nature are mysterious.
Key Words : Kalij Pheasant; Corbett National Park