The monal is abundant in the GHNP forest’s temperate upper zone, which comprises oak and conifer forest interspersed with open grassy slopes, cliffs and alpine meadows.
Although the monal is concentrated mostly between 2,700m and 3,700m, it exhibits a clear altitudinal migration, descending as low as 2,000m in winter. However, it also shows tolerance to snow and has been observed digging through snowfall for roots, tubers and invertebrates.
Males weigh between 1.9kg and 2.3kg, whilst females weigh between 1.8kg and 2.15kg.
The adult male has a long, metallic green crest, reddish copper plumage on the back and sides of the neck, and a prominent white back and rump visible during flight. The male’s tail feathers are reddish brown and darker towards the tips.
The female is dull in colour. Its upper parts are covered in dark, brownish-black feathers, its foreneck has a prominent white patch and the lower tail coverts (small feathers) are white, barred with black and reddish brown.
The monal can be seen in pairs during breeding season (April to August), and forms large coveys (flocks) for communal roosting in the winter.
The male monal was formerly under heavy hunting pressure for its crest feathers, which were used to ornament the hats of Himachali men until 1982, when legal hunting was banned in the state.