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A Shower of Silvery Stars

June 1, 2016

67ayyuxdoo 03289316 western tragopan male lakshminarasimha r
Photo Credit: ©LAKSHMINARASIMHA R

This is a male western tragopan, a montane pheasant with bright feathers and a fluffed crest found in the western Himalayas, where it is the state bird of India's Himachal Pradesh.

Despite its colorful appearance, which WCS's founding ornithologist William Beebe once described as "black and crimson plumage covered with a shower of silvery stars," the western tragopan can be extremely hard to spot in the wild.

That can make it difficult to assess the population, though we know that the bird's habitat is shrinking due to forest loss and degradation. In its assessment of the species, IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) warns that the western tragopan may soon be characterized as Endangered.

The Conservation Leadership Programme, whose role includes funding teams that collect data on biological diversity and of which WCS is a partner, recently announced the 2016 projects that will benefit from its support. The project list includes an assessment of the western tragopan population in Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary in India. The information gathered could help us get a better handle on how the bird is faring.

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