SHY by nature, but showy in conquest : The Western Trogopan is a scarce, shy and elusive bird.

Males are as beautiful to behold as they are rare to spot. Locals call the species jujurana, king of birds. Perhaps 3,300 survive in the wild, in India's Himachal Pradesh state.

That's where filmmaker Munmun Dhalria spent most most of the 2017 and 2018, making a documentary on the jujurana.

One day as she hid in a bird blind, a make drew near, splendid in the orange feather ascot and white-spotted black cloak. After browsing for food, he hopped onto a boulder and began calling, aiming to woo females and warn off rivals.

Dhalaria, a National Geographic explorer, watched and filmed the bird for 35 minutes, one of the longest documented jujrana sighting in the wild.

Witnessing a mating call is one thing - an actual mating, quite another. It's sometimes glimpsed at the world's only captive - breeding program, for this pheasant cousin, in Himachal Pradesh.

The male sidles up to the female. He deploys his finery : His head sprouts blue horns, his tail feathers fan, his rainbow wattle unfurls. At passion's peak, he ducks out of view, bursts forth again, rushes the female, mounts - and they mate for 10 seconds. though brief, it's effective.

During the next six to eight weeks, she'll lay three to five eggs and hatch them.

Captive bred-birds form a reserve as wild population shrinks. The program has about three dozen birds and aims to release some into the wild in 2020.

The World Students Society thanks author Patricia Edmonds.


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