Elegant vs. ornamental


Here’s a proud bird, though he claims to be far too classy or elegant for such mean thoughts. Beautiful though the Blood Pheasant may be, humility is not his virtue!


The letters from the stray animals, the mangy and the rabid really put me off. I am far too classy, far too elegant and far too sophisticated to be in the same league as them. I hope that you would get my picture published along with my letter. I am no celebrity though I ought to be one. I do not vilify anyone in my letters though now I ought to.

I cannot understand why many people have not heard of me. I am the state bird of Sikkim. You just don’t ignore someone as beautiful as I — unless you are afraid to share the limelight! Insecurity breeds contempt. That’s my own line, by the way!

I am a pheasant…no, not the kind you are thinking of. My home is the high altitude coniferous forests of the Himalayas, at 4,000 m or so. Blood pheasants, that is what they call us — hmmm, I have kindled your curiosity and your gory imagination, haven’t I? Sorry to disappoint you. We get our name from lines or streaks of brilliant red feathers across our chests. Against white, buff and grey plumage, the red lines look like blood oozing out of wounds.


If I am a picture of elegance, the satyr tragopan, another member of the pheasant family is, well, how shall I put it…like something from a nouveau riche’s house. Rich, brilliant, gaudy and a little too much, if you ask me.

In many respects, we are alike. We share the same habitat, and eat the same food; we are of similar size and we walk or run on the slopes rather than fly. Our similarities end there. Tragopans get their name from the Greek word for “goat”. Now, what would a goat and a bird have in common? Horns! Yes, these birds have two blue, fleshy protrusions on their heads that resemble horns! If that seems freaky to you, listen to the rest of the description. The tragopans have black, grey, brown feathers with bands of crimson on the sides of the head, neck and chest. They have brown eyes; olive-green and grey and white spots on their buff-coloured underside; and they have pink legs and feet! Any colour I missed out?

They are beautiful to those who have a taste for the flashy. While blood pheasant status in the wild is of “Least Concern”, tragopan’s is “Near Threatened”, as they are trapped and sold as ornamental birds.

As I told you at the start, elegance and class are my high points even in my style of writing.

Blood pheasant

Reply from Aristotle

Green is the only colour I see in you, you envious ruddy bird!

Did you know that there are 50 species of pheasant, all but one are native to Asia? Generally, a male pheasant has a long tail and a gaudy plumage. And yes, you guessed it right — the peacock is the most easily recognizable of them all.


Published as part of a series titled ‘Aristotle’s Mailbag’ in Young World, The Hindu, dt. June 03, 2013

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