Cabot's Tragopan Tragopan caboti


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Vulnerable because it has a small population which is severely fragmented and undergoing a continuing decline owing to the on-going conversion of natural mixed forests to conifer plantations and high hunting pressure.

Population justification
A population estimate of c.9,300 individuals has been derived from analysis of records and surveys by BirdLife International (2001) and the national wildlife survey of China (1995-2000), although Brazil (2009) estimated far fewer: <100 breeding pairs. Within Wuyanling reserve, population density was thought to have declined from 7.1 birds/km2 in late 1980's to 0.9 birds/km2 in 2002-2003 (Wen-hong Deng et al. 2005). It is placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals, equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals. However, it may number fewer than 5,000 mature individuals (Dong et al. 2010, Zhang Zhengwang in litt. 2012).

Trend justification
There is evidence that protected areas are effective at protecting this species and maintaining population numbers. However, within Wuyanling Nature Reserve, tragopan density declined from 7.1 per km2 in the late 1980s to 0.9 per km2 in 2002-2003 (Wen-hong Deng et al. 2005), and the species is suffering from habitat conversion and hunting pressure outside of protected areas, thus it is thought to be undergoing a moderately rapid decline.

Distribution and population

Tragopan caboti is endemic to south-east China, where it is known from many widely scattered localities in the mountain ranges in Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangxi and Guangdong (BirdLife International 2001). A survey in 1985-1986 estimated c.4,000 individuals in the core of its range in Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang and Guangxi and the national wildlife survey of China (1995-2000) estimated the population at 9,300 individuals. However, it may number fewer than 5,000 mature individuals (Dong et al. 2010, Zhang Zhengwang in litt. 2012). Numbers are believed to be relatively stable inside protected areas, but generally declining elsewhere. Population viability analysis (PVA) conducted for the population in Wuyanling National Nature Reserve, southern Zhejiang, predicts a 7.3% probability of extinction in 100 years and indicates that nest loss and reduction in the extent of habitat are the most important factors affecting the species's population size and risk of extinction (Zhang Yanyun and Zheng Guangmei 2007, Zhang Yanyun 2010).


It inhabits subtropical, evergreen broadleaved forest and mixed deciduous-coniferous forest at 600-1,800 m, and open areas above the tree-line. Its distribution is closely associated with the tree Daphniphyllum macropodum, which is often used for roosting in, and its leaves and fruit represent an important food source. Forests occupied by T. caboti tend to be dominated by plant species of the families Fagaceae, Lauraceae, Theaceae, Aquifoliaceae, Symplocaceae, Rosaceae and Ericaceae (Zhang Yanyun 2010). Unlike many congeners, this species does not move to lower elevations in winter (Zhang Yanyun 2010). The species nests in large trees found near ridge tops (Zhang Yanyun and Zheng Guangmei 2006, Zhang Yanyun 2010), at between 2.4 and 10 m above the ground (Zhang Yanyun 2010). Home range size, determined from radio-tagged birds, varies between 0.029 km2 and 0.39 km2, with maximum recorded movements of 3 km in adults (Zhang Yanyun and Zheng Guangmei 2006). Broadleaved forests are preferred for nesting, although since 1990 an increasing number of nests have been located in coniferous forests (Zhang Yanyun 2010). The number of natural nest sites has been identified as a factor potentially limiting the population size, but it will use artificial nest sites when these are provided (Wen-hong Deng et al. 2005). Mating is a mix of monogamy and polygamy, with breeding season between March and May (McGowan and Kirwan 2020). 


The main threat is habitat loss and modification, particularly where this leads to habitat fragmentation. Its recorded limited ability to disperse across gaps in forest cover greater than 500 m means the species is highly susceptible to fragmentation (Zhang Yanyun and Zheng Guangmei 2006). Most natural forest has been cleared or modified as a result of the demands for agricultural land and timber, as well as the development of urban areas, roads and railways (Zhang Yanyun 2010). The impact of roads may be limited to hard-surfaced and busy routes, as a study in Wuyishan National Nature Reserve, Jiangxi, found that the relatively quiet clay road that bisects the reserve does not represent a barrier to the species, and even appears to present opportunities for feeding, grit collection and courtship, although traffic volume and thus disturbance are important factors (Yue Sun et al. 2009). The progressive replacement of natural evergreen broadleaved forests with conifer plantations and bamboo is now a major problem for this species, in part because the species nests on natural platforms such as forks between branches, which are lacking in most conifer species: provision of artificial nesting platforms may allow the species to persist in conifer habitats (Wen-hong Deng et al. 2005). Illegal hunting for food still occurs in some places, especially outside protected areas. Since 1983, 48% of known nests have been destroyed by natural predators, in particular Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius, Yellow-throated Marten Charronia flavigula and Leopard Cat Felis bengalensis. Theft of eggs for illegal selling may also procure issues (Legal Eagle 2016), however the extent to which the species may be threatened by this is unknown. 

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. It is a nationally-protected species in China. Its biology and conservation will be intensively studied during a forthcoming four-year project. There are many protected areas in or near to its range, but these reserves tend to be relatively small and isolated, and it is not clear how many of them contain large enough areas of suitable forest to support viable populations. There is evidence that the establishment of protected areas has been effective in preventing forest clearance and hunting within its range and an estimated 60% of the population now occurs within protected areas (Zhang Zhengwang in litt. 2007). The species is the subject of an on-going long-term monitoring programme which has included radio-tagging 23 Cabot's Tragopan and providing artificial nest sites in Wuyanling National Nature Reserve (Wen-hong Deng et al. 2005, Zhang Yanyun and Zheng Guangmei 2006). The species also likely occurs in Dayaoshan National Nature Reserve, Guangxi (Shing et al. 2006). Recent studies have also found that captive populations of the species show relatively high genetic diversity and low inbreeding depression (Zhang Yanyun 2008, Dong et al. 2011). The Tragopan Breeding Centre of Beijing Normal University holds also hold a functional captive-bred population (Dong et al. 2011). 

Conservation Actions Proposed
In degraded areas, promote habitat management such as replanting of conifer plantations with appropriate deciduous tree species (e.g. D. macropodum). Ensure that the species's needs are fully reflected in management plans for key protected areas and that staff are adequately trained. Conduct surveys in protected areas throughout its range to determine where significant populations are found and whether additional protected areas are required. Monitor populations annually in selected protected areas. Promote the careful management of existing captive populations through the use of an international studbook. Assess the long-term benefits of experimental provision of artificial nests and promote their use more widely if beneficial.


c.50-61 cm. Distinctive, spotted tragopan. Male unmistakable, with heavily buff-spotted, rich reddish-brown upperparts, straw-buff underparts, and blackish head with bare orange facial skin (including brilliant blue and red inflatable "lappet" and "horn" wattles), golden crown-sides and orange-red neck-sides. Smaller female, dark rufous-brown above, greyer below, and marked with numerous small, white chevrons. Similar spp. Female Temminck's Tragopan T. temminckii (possibly sympatric in west of range) has larger pale oval spotting to underparts, more prominent whitish arrow markings on upperparts and bluish skin around eye. Voice Territorial call consists of repeated rapid burst of 5-25 notes lasting 2-8 seconds, diminishing in pitch and volume. Also utters sharp, repeated notes as "summons" calls.


Text account compilers
Fernando, E.

Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Keane, A., St Jalme, M., Taylor, J. & Zhang, Z.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Tragopan caboti. Downloaded from on 28/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/03/2023.