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22–23 cm; 67 g. Male has white forehead, black crown, red nape , black hindneck; thin white line above eye, white cheeks and ear-coverts (often stained); black malar stripe curving up behind ear-coverts to upper nape, broadening on side of neck, extending down to breast and back to join side of mantle, isolating large white patch on rear part of side of neck; black upperparts , wing with large white area on scapulars and inner wing-coverts, very broad white bars on primaries and secondaries, white edges of outer webs of tertials, white marginal coverts; black uppertail, broad white bars towards tips of outer 2–3 feather pairs; white below, sometimes with faint grey or buff tinge or staining, vent and undertail-coverts red to pinkish red , in fresh plumage pink feather tips extending centrally up to lower breast; medium-long bill straight, slightly chisel-tipped, greyish black, paler base of lower mandible; iris deep red, red-brown or brown; legs dull blackish or dark grey. Distinguished from all congeners by much more extensive white in wings. Female lacks red on nape . Juvenile duller than adult, more brown-black above, buffish below, often more white in wings and tail but occasionally scapulars finely barred black, ventral area pink rather than red, sometimes black streaks on side of breast, male with red crown mixed with black and white feathers, black nape, female with usually variable amount of red in forecrown.
E of Aral Sea to S Kazakhstan, N & W Kyrgyzstan (N to S tip of L Balkhash) and W China (N Xinjiang to Karamay and Lop Nur), and S to SW Turkmenia (possibly also extreme NE Iran) and NE Afghanistan in W and Chinese Turkestan (S to edge of Kunlun Shan) in E.
Riparian woodland with poplars (Populus) and other softwoods, e.g. Juglans regia in Kyrgyzstan (1), willows (Salix), saxaul (Haloxylon ammodendron) scrub in deserts, frequently orchards and gardens. Also found in broadleaved montane forest, often containing hazel (Corylus) and fruit trees or mixed with fir (Abies) or juniper (Juniperus), and in juniper stands. Generally at low elevations, locally to 1050 m; above 1800 m, to 2500 m, on N slopes of Kunlun Shan.
Some nomadic movements outside breeding season, but essentially non-migratory.
Diet and Foraging
No reliable information.
Sounds and Vocal Behavior
Common call “kewk” or “kig”; also rattling calls. Drums.
Egg-laying from late Mar to Apr. Nest-hole at 1–5 m in softwood tree (e.g. poplar, willow, walnut) (1), also recorded in slope of sandhill; study in Kyrgyzstan revealed that nest-trees are usually living but have broken and/or dead limbs and have larger diameters at breast height (1). Clutch 4–6 eggs, occasionally seven; no information on incubation and fledging periods.
Not globally threatened. Previously considered Near Threatened. Appears to be common within its range. Little-known species; further study required, especially of its ecology.