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Meet The National Bird of Nepal, The Himalayan Monal (Danfe)

Nestled amidst the towering peaks of the Himalayas, Nepal is a country steeped in legend, history, and breathtaking natural beauty. But beyond the snowy embrace of Mount Everest lies another treasure, one adorned with feathers reflecting the very vibrancy and spirit of Nepal – the Himalayan Monal.

Also known as Danfe in Nepali, this bird, with its shimmering plumes and distinctive calls, paints the Himalayan meadows with dashes of iridescent hues. Dive into this article to uncover the secrets of this stunning creature and discover a fact about the Danfe that might just leave you in awe.

Quick Info About The Himalayan Monal

Scientific Name:Lophophorus impejanus
Average Size:70 cm (27.5 inches)
Average Wingspan:92-94 cm (36-37 inches)
Average Weight:Male: 1980-2380g (4.3-5.2 lbs), Female: 1800-2150g (3.9-4.7 lbs)
Average Lifespan:5-8 years
Geographical Range:Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bhutan, China, and Myanmar
Habitat:Alpine and sub-alpine regions, rhododendron forests, grassy slopes, and open rocky terrains
Conservation Status:Globally: Least Concern, In Nepal: Near Threatened (IUCN Red List)

Meet The Himalayan Monal, National Bird of Nepal

A visual spectacle, the Himalayan Monal (or Danfe) flaunts an iridescent array of colors that seem to shift and shimmer with every angle of light. The male, undoubtedly the more ostentatious of the two sexes, proudly parades an iridescent green, copper, and purple plumage with a distinct patch on its back and a cinnamon-brown tail.

The spatulate-tipped crest gives him an air of royalty. In stark contrast, the female, while more muted, possesses her own subtle elegance with pale streaking on the underparts, a prominent white throat, and a bright blue orbital skin.

The sexual dimorphism is evident, making it easy even for a layman to differentiate between the two. Perched high in the food chain, the Himalayan Monal, primarily herbivorous, forages for tubers, roots, seeds, berries, mosses, insects, and grubs.

Their robust bills, specially adapted for digging, play a crucial role in their feeding habits. The early morning often witnesses groups of Monals diligently digging under trees and open lands. Predators of this magnificent bird are limited but can include large raptors and some mammals.

Playing a significant role in the ecosystem, the Monal not only aids in seed dispersal but also helps in controlling pest populations due to its insectivorous diet. Its presence also acts as an indicator of a healthy alpine ecosystem, making it an essential species in maintaining ecological balance in the Himalayan regions.

Nepal Himalayan Monal

Where Does The Himalayan Monal Live?

The Himalayan Monal, aptly named, is emblematic of the rugged high-altitude terrains of the majestic Himalayan range. Within Nepal, Danfe finds solace in the steep grassy slopes, rocky terrains, and the adjoining rhododendron forests of the Himalayan region.

This bird thrives in alpine and sub-alpine zones during the summer months, particularly in areas that lie between 3300 to 4750 meters above sea level.

However, when winter wraps the Himalayas in its icy embrace, the Monal descends to slightly lower altitudes, taking refuge in the rhododendron forests, especially during heavy snowfalls, moving to regions that are around 2500 meters in altitude.

This altitude-based migration not only ensures their survival during the harsh winters but also allows them to access varied food sources throughout the year. Globally, beyond Nepal’s boundaries, the Himalayan Monal’s footprint extends across other parts of the Himalayas, in countries like India, Bhutan, Pakistan, China, and even Myanmar.

Why and When Did The Himalayan Monal Become The National Bird of Nepal?

The Himalayan Monal’s designation as the national bird of Nepal isn’t just about its undeniable beauty but is a reflection of the country’s ethos, culture, and spirit.

The bird’s multicolored plumage mirrors Nepal’s rich diversity of multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and multi-cultural diversity. Just as the Danfe showcases an array of colors, Nepal too is home to a variety of cultures, languages, and traditions, all coexisting harmoniously.

Furthermore, the gregarious nature of the bird, often found in groups, signifies unity among the Nepali people. Their peaceful demeanor and celebratory dances mirror the nature of Nepalis, who are known for their tranquility and festive celebrations.

The bird’s significance transcends aesthetics and symbolism. Historical records suggest that the Himalayan Monal has held a special place in Nepali folklore and culture for centuries.

Their feathers, especially from the males, have been used as adornments and are sometimes even associated with various local deities. However, the exact date of its designation as the national bird remains shrouded in history, becoming an intrinsic part of Nepal’s identity over time.

As far as controversies go, while the Himalayan Monal’s status as a national symbol hasn’t been widely disputed, its conservation status has sparked debates. Given the bird’s cultural significance, there have been challenges in balancing its protection with traditional practices, especially concerning the use of its plumes.

Nepal Himalayan Monal

Where is The Himalayan Monal Featured in Nepal?

While the Himalayan Monal doesn’t grace Nepal’s flag or its currency, its presence is deeply felt throughout the nation in various forms. The bird has become an icon in the country, often depicted in art, literature, and even local souvenirs.

Many establishments, ranging from hotels to businesses, have adopted the name “Danfe” as a nod to this national symbol, underlining its significance in the daily lives of the Nepali people.

Moreover, the bird’s image frequently appears in promotional materials designed to attract tourists, showcasing both the natural beauty and the rich biodiversity Nepal offers. Various conservation parks and reserves in Nepal, dedicated to preserving the Himalayan ecosystem, also prominently feature the Himalayan Monal in their branding and educational materials.

Names of The Himalayan Monal

The Himalayan Monal boasts a myriad of names that reflect its cultural significance and the regions it graces. Primarily, it is known as the “Himalayan Monal” because of its predominant habitat.

Additionally, the names “Impeyan Monal” and “Impeyan Pheasant” are often used, with the former being a tribute to Lady Impey, the wife of the British Chief Justice of Bengal in the late 18th century, who first kept these birds in captivity.

In Nepal, the bird is affectionately called “Danfe.” Intriguingly, there’s a linguistic discrepancy worth noting: while the Himalayan Monal is called “Monal” in English, in Nepali, the term “Monal” actually refers to the Satyr Tragopan.

In the countries it inhabits, local names often reflect the bird’s vibrant appearance or its distinctive behavior. Traditional and indigenous names, if any, are deeply rooted in the local folklore and tales where the bird often holds a revered place.

Is The Himalayan Monal Endangered?

The Himalayan Monal finds itself under the spotlight when it comes to conservation status. On a global scale, according to the IUCN Global Red List, the bird is categorized as “Least Concern (LC),” suggesting its population is stable or not declining at a rate that causes alarm. However, the regional perspective paints a slightly different picture, with IUCN’s status for Nepal categorizing it as “Near Threatened (NT).”

The threats to the Himalayan Monal are multifaceted. Hunting, often for local consumption, poses a significant danger, especially during winter when the bird descends to lower altitudes, bringing it closer to human settlements.

The bird’s splendid plumes make it a target for illegal hunting. Trapping by shepherds and poachers, especially during and after monsoon seasons, further exacerbates the situation.

Conservation efforts have been initiated, with the bird receiving protection under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973 in Nepal. Additionally, its inclusion in Appendix I of CITES reinforces global commitment towards its conservation. Numerous reserves, parks, and conservation areas across Nepal aim to protect its habitat, ensuring this national treasure continues to thrive.

Nepal Himalayan Monal

Interesting Facts About The Himalayan Monal

  1. Vibrant Dimorphism: The sexual dimorphism is stark, with males showcasing iridescent colors ranging from green, copper, and purple, while females sport paler streaking with a prominent white throat.
  2. Celebratory Nature: The Himalayan Monal exhibits dance-like behaviors, especially during mating seasons. This has drawn parallels to the festive nature of Nepali people who sing and dance during joyous occasions.
  3. Adapted Bill: With a powerful bill, the Monal can dig for tubers, often remaining at one spot for prolonged durations. It’s not uncommon to see a dozen of these birds digging under trees or open lands early in the morning.
  4. Diverse Diet: From terrestrial insects, tubers, roots, grass roots, and seeds to berries, mosses, and grubs, the Himalayan Monal’s diet is a testament to its adaptability.
  5. Significance in Folklore: Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the Monal holds a revered place in regional folklore and tales, often symbolizing peace, beauty, and harmony.

Other Beautiful Birds Native To Nepal

Nepal’s avifauna is impressively diverse, thanks to its unique geographical and climatic conditions. Here are five other birds that are native and commonly found in Nepal or hold special significance:

  • Spiny Babbler (Turdoides nipalensis): The only bird species endemic to Nepal, the Spiny Babbler is a treasure trove for birdwatchers.
  • Satyr Tragopan (Tragopan satyra): Also known as the “Crimson Horned Pheasant”, this bird is another example of Himalayan beauty with its vibrant red coloring and spotted pattern.
  • Himalayan Snowcock (Tetraogallus himalayensis): Primarily found in the high-altitude regions, this bird’s calls often echo amidst the mountainous silence.
  • White-Throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis): Known for its striking blue feathers and contrasting white throat, it is commonly found across various Nepalese landscapes.
  • Nepal Fulvetta (Alcippe nipalensis): Often seen flitting about in the lower regions, its melodious call and fluffed-up appearance make it endearing.

What Is Another National Animal of Nepal?

The Cow holds the title of Nepal’s national animal. The Cow is revered in Nepal, predominantly because of the country’s majority Hindu population. In Hinduism, cows are symbols of non-violence and are considered sacred. They represent gentleness, and their milk has nourished countless generations, symbolizing abundance and fertility.

Moreover, the Cow also has a special day dedicated to it, known as “Gai Tihar,” where the animal is worshiped and honored as part of the Tihar festival.

In addition to its religious significance, cows play a vital role in Nepal’s agrarian economy. They are pivotal in rural agriculture, providing milk and aiding in farm tasks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Himalayan Monal considered significant in Nepal?

The Himalayan Monal is revered for its vibrant and shimmering plumage, often symbolizing the diverse and colorful culture of Nepal. As the national bird, it represents beauty, grace, and the rich biodiversity of the Himalayan nation.

How is the Himalayan Monal different from other pheasants?

The male Monal stands out due to its multicolored, iridescent plumage. Unlike other pheasants, its feathers showcase a spectrum of colors from green, copper, and purple to its striking metallic green crown.

Are there specific laws protecting the Himalayan Monal in Nepal?

Yes, the Himalayan Monal is protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973 in Nepal. Its hunting, poaching, or any harm is strictly prohibited and punishable.

Why is the Cow chosen as a national animal when Nepal is known for its rich wildlife like snow leopards and rhinos?

The Cow is revered in Nepal primarily due to its religious significance in Hinduism, where it symbolizes non-violence and purity. Moreover, its pivotal role in Nepal’s agrarian landscape also plays a part in its recognition.

What other symbols are representative of Nepal’s identity?

In addition to the Himalayan Monal and the Cow, the Rhododendron (the national flower) represents Nepal’s flora. The flag of Nepal, unique in its non-rectangular design, is also a significant symbol of the country, representing its Himalayan peaks and the brave spirit of its people.

Other National Symbols of Nepal

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