The blood pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus) is the only species in genus Ithaginis of the pheasant family. This relatively small, short-tailed pheasant is widespread and fairly common in eastern Himalayas, ranging across India, Nepal, Bhutan, China and northern Myanmar. The blood pheasant was the national bird of the former Kingdom of Sikkim, and remains Sikkim’s state bird. Blood pheasants have the size of a small fowl, about 17 in (43 cm) in length with a short convex, very strong black bill, feathered between bill and eye, and a small crest of various coloured feathers. The colour of the plumage above is dark ash, with white shafts, the coverts of the wings various tinged with green, with broad strokes of white through the length of each feather, the feathers of the chin deep crimson; on the breast, belly and sides feathers are lance-shaped, of various length, the tips green with crimson margins, collectively resembling dashes of blood scattered on the breast and belly. The tail consists of twelve sub-equal feathers, shafts white, rounded, the ends whitish, the coverts a rich crimson red.
Both males and females have red feet and a distinct ring of bare skin around the eye that typically is crimson colored, but is orange in a few subspecies. Females are more uniformly colored, being overall dull brown and often with some gray to the nape. Although some of the subspecies that have been described are highly distinctive, others are not, and some variation appears to be clinal. Consequently, the number of valid subspecies is disputed, with various authorities recognizing between 11 and 15. They mainly vary in the plumage of the males, especially the amount of red or black to the throat, forehead, neck, chest and tail, and the presence or absence of rufous in the wings. This is an image of the Tibetan blood pheasant Ithaginis cruentus tibetanus. Blood pheasants live in the mountains of Nepal, Sikkim, northern Myanmar, Tibet, and central and south-central China, where they prefer coniferous or mixed forests and scrub areas near the snowline. They move their range depending on the seasons, and are found at higher elevations during the summer. With snow increasing in fall and winter they move to lower elevations. They are good runners, and prefers to run rather than to fly, when disturbed. They are poor fliers, the flight pattern of Blood pheasant is short and direct.
These birds are secretive, shy and suspicious of humans. Believed to be monogamous, but polygamy and polyandry reported. Sometime found in small groups or in pairs. They forages on the ground or from low bushes and low tree branches. They feed on grain, grass seeds, fallen berries, shoots, tubers, termites, ants and insects. They prefer green foods and in the wild they eat mostly lichens. The call of the Blood pheasant, described as a loud “Jijiji” or “glee-glee-keweee-keweee” or “si-si-si”. Nesting and breeding season is between April to June. The nest is located in fir and willow trees, in shrubs, under rocks, by fallen trees, or in tree holes near the ground.