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Blood Pheasant - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by peterlobo
Bhutan, April 2005
Ithaginis cruentus


Photo © by kctsang
Bhutan, 22 April 2019

Male 44–48 cm (17¼-19 in); Female 39·5–42 cm (15½-16½ in)

  • Red breast, throat and forehead
  • White crest
  • Black line under and over eye
  • Red orbitial skin
  • Pale buff upper breast with red streaks
  • Light buff lower breast and belly with red streaks
  • Rest of body streaked grey, white and buff
  • Red tail streaked grey and buff
  • Red feet.


  • Pale rusty face, forehead and throat
  • Grey top of head and back of the neck
  • Rest of body light brown, vermiculated with darker brown


Subspecies vary in the amount of red on breast and facial markings.


Mountains of Nepal to western and central China and north-eastern Burma.



Subspecies geoffroyi, lacks red on wings
Photo © by baboon
Yajiang, Sichuan Province, China, June 2007

There are 14 subspecies[1]:

  • I. c. cruentus : Northern Nepal to north-western Bhutan
  • I. c. affinis: Sikkim
  • I. c. tibetanus: Eastern Bhutan and southern Tibet
  • I. c. kuseri: North-eastern India (upper Assam) and south-eastern Tibet
  • I. c. geoffroyi: Western China (western Sichuan) and south-eastern Tibet
  • I. c. marionae: Mountains of south-western China (north-western Yunnan) and north-eastern Myanmar
  • I. c. rocki: South-western China (Mekong Valley of north-western Yunnan)
  • I. c. holoptilus: South-western China (Likiang District of Yunnan)
  • I. c. clarkei: South-western China (Likiang Mountains of north-western Yunnan)
  • I. c. michaelis: North-central China (Nan Shan Mountains of north-western Gansu)
  • I. c. beicki: North-central China (north-eastern Qinghai and adjacent Gansu)
  • I. c. berezowskii: Mountains of central China (southern Gansu and northern Sichuan)
  • I. c. annae: Mountains of south-western China (north-western Sichuan)
  • I. c. sinensis: Central China (Tsinling Mountains of southern Shensi and south-western Hunan)


Coniferous or mixed high altitude forests, scrub and riverside woodland.



Seems to eat a lot of mosses at least during the incubation period; also leaf litter, grass shoots, insects, including beetles.They move on to small fruits, leaves, seeds, moss spore cases, bamboo shoots, berries and rose pips in the autumn. Their winter diet then changes to fir and juniper shoots, berries, moss and bamboo leaves.


The clutch contains 5-12 eggs which are incubated for 27-29 days in captive birds. Wild birds in Gansu, China, incubate 6-10 eggs for about 37 days; the explanation for the difference in period probably is lower quality diet, necessitating the birds to be absent from the nest almost 7 hours a day, usually in one long feeding period including the entire morning. At the study site, this meant that the temperature of the eggs fell down to about 11 dg C, way below effective incubating temperature. During periods where the female (males do not incubate) were present, the average egg temperature was 33.6 dg C.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. gbwf.org
  3. BF Member observations
  4. Jia, Sun, & Swenson 2010. Unusual incubation behavior and embryonic tolerance of hypothermia by the Blood Pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus). The AUK 127(4): 926-931

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