There was a time when the famous blue bird of the mountains, the Himalayan Monal, had become scarce. Men, especially from Himachal Pradesh, were hunting down the bird for its beautiful crest. It was believed that a Monal’s feather in one’s cap increased a person’s status and authority. It was only when the government banned the hunting, did the killing stop and the beloved bird of the mountains resurfaced.
Belonging to the pheasant family, Monal is a bird watcher’s delight. The male bird has a vibrant multicoloured plumage, with blue being predominant. The female, like most of the other species, has a more dull cover. The bird calls in a shrilly, loud whistle that can never go unnoticed. The locals know - there goes a Monal .
Sadly, just when the Monal recovered from the hunting spree, the hydroelectric power projects started affecting its habitat and the bird’s battle for existence reappeared.
Monal is not just the state bird of Uttarakhand but also the National Bird of Nepal, where it is called Danphe. The stories, art and mythology of this small country are filled with Danphe’s glory. A Monal’s image also sits proudly on Nepal’s currency notes. Being a ‘bird of nine colours’ or the ‘rainbow bird’, it has been the source of inspiration for many dances, costumes and magic rituals.
The Himalayan Monal mostly lives above tree line during the summer and comes down to live in the conifer forests during the winters. Chopta and Tungnath are the two places in India where it can be easily spotted.
A well planned trip to the mountains can give a nature lover not just the scenic beauty, but also a glimpse of that blue bird which calls in shrilly whistle. One look at it and one can’t help but say with wonder, “There goes a Monal”.