The characteristic peculiarities of this bird—the dumpy body, with short tucked-in tail, yet mounted on rather high legs, spur-less but furnished on the toes with very long claws only slightly curved, are characteristic of hill-partridges in general, the most numerous but least interesting group of partridges found with us.
It has a greenish-brown back barred with black, and the sides are grey, streaked with chestnut and spotted with white. The head and breast differ in colour in the two sexes, but this is exceptional in the group, all the others having the sexes alike. In the cock peura the top of the head is chestnut, and the face and throat black slightly streaked with white, a band of which colour, unmixed with black, borders the grey breast above. The hen has a duller brown, black-streaked cap, and the groundcolour of the throat chestnut, though it also is marked with black ; the breast has a brownish tinge. In young birds of both sexes the white flank spots invade the breast also. The name Arboricola (tree-haunter) is appropriate enough if it means a dweller among trees, for all these tree-partridges live in forest, and in forest on hills ; but they do not live in the trees like tragopans, though they perch sometimes, but apparently not more than some of the other partridges, such as the painted species or southern francolin.
The range of the present species is wide, for in addition to the Himalayas it is found in the Naga Hills and in those north of Manipur. It is a bird of the middle hills, not generally going above 9,000 or below 5,000 feet, and its especial haunts are dark forest-clad ravines and gullies. It may, indeed, be found close up to the limits of vegetation, and is then more easily seen, so as to give an idea of abundance, but its real home is lower down ; here, however, it is in its element as an accomplished skulker, and so is rarely seen. Logs, however, will put it up, and its scent is so strong, says Hume, as to draw off the dogs from that of pheasants. Its flight is low, short, and very swift, and it must be hit by the snappiest of shots or not at all. It is practically omnivorous, eating both insects and leaves, seeds and berries, and may often be seen feeding near the various hill pheasants ; open land and cultivation it avoids. As might be inferred from the length of the claws, it scratches for food a great deal.
The note is a soft whistle, either loud or low according to circumstances, only heard in spring, and easily imitated ; indeed, so like is it to the whistle with which the shepherds call their flocks, according to Hume, that these simple hill-men believe that the birds are the abodes of the transmigrated souls of former colleagues, and in some places object to their being shot in consequence.
Peuras go generally in pairs or singly, though in autumn and winter coveys of half a dozen may collect. They are commonly only shot casually, according to the rather scanty opportunities they afford ; about half a dozen a day may be thus picked up when after better game. As food they are dry, but go well enough in a stew. The eggs are said to be about half a dozen in number, and white ; this, at any rate, is the usual colour of the egg in this very distinct group, which are all much alike in every way, chiefly differing in details of colour.
The present species, being a widespread bird, has several native names; that given above is in use in Nepal and Kumaun, as well as Ban-titar ; the Lepcha name is Kohumpho, and the Kangra one Kaindal; Ram chukru and Roli are used in Chamba.