The Himalayan or Impeyan Monal is the only Monal pheasant regularly seen in captivity. There are another two species in the Lophophorus genus, namely the Chinese Monal and the even rarer Sclaters Monal. The Himalayan Monal is the national bird of Nepal and as the name suggests inhabits the Himalayan Mountains at high altitudes which can be anything from around 2000m to over 4000m. Their range is widespread and not confined only to the Himalayas. They are also indigenous to areas in Eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan and further east to Tibet, Bhutan and Myanmar.
The Himalayan Monal is a large heavily built bird, the male of which has spectacular plumage. It consists mainly of metallic colours including blue, green, red and purple. He has a shimmering crest with the same metallic properties. He also has a short bright tan brown tail and a white patch on the rump. All of the front from the throat down is black. The Monal hen is predominantly brown as is often the case with females but she has a white throat and has, like the male, the most beautiful azure blue colouring around the eye.
Monals are very easy birds to care for as long as they have plenty of room. We use grassy aviaries measuring 432 square feet to accommodate them and even with this space we use a rotation system to keep them on grass. The reason for this is their love of digging. They find a great deal of their diet through their incessant digging. They use their very powerful beaks to dig up tubers, roots, insects and grubs etc. I'm pleased to say they have devoured a multitude of dockens in their aviaries. As well as all the roots they love so much they also look for their peanut and seed treats.
The breeding season for these birds starts early to mid April. The birds become sexually mature in their second year with the hen laying from 5 to 8 eggs in a clutch and two or three clutches in the season. The incubation period is 28 days. The chicks are not among the easiest to rear but once past a few weeks old tend to be less fragile. Care must be taken to make sure they are eating well to begin with and we've found that both cooked egg yolk and bird tonic in the water will encourage the chick to eat and help sustain it until it is used to eating enough crumb on a regular basis to grow well.
Monals can give the occasional penetratingly loud call (be warned if you have close, unforgiving, neighbours) but these are usually few and far between and as they are such wonderful, friendly birds, the odd outburst can surely be overlooked. It would be difficult for anyone who loves pheasants to give the utterly stunning Himalayan Monal a miss.