(1858) Columba leuconota leuconota.
THE WHITE-BELLIED OR SNOW-PIGEON.
Columba leuconota Vigors, P. Z. S., 1832 p. 16 (Nepal) ; Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 32 (part.).
Vernacular names. Bujul (Chamba).
Description. Edge of eyelids white; rest of head and upper neck slaty-grey, practically black where it joins the white nuchal collar; this collar gradually shades into the light brown of the upper back, scapulars and innermost lesser wing-coverts and secondaries; lower back white; rump and upper tail-coverts black; tail slaty-black at the base, followed by a broad white band and broadly tipped black on the central feathers and more and more narrowly on each succeeding pair outwardly ; wings grey with three visible bands of brown formed by the brown bases of the greater and median coverts and secondaries, a fourth concealed band on the median coverts; primaries dark grey, browner at the tips and narrowly edged with silver-grey ; outer secondaries grey at the base and brown on the terminal halves ; quill-shafts dark brown.
Colours of soft parts. Iris golden-yellow; bill black; legs and feet bright scarlet-red, the soles paler and the claws black. " Mouth bright fleshy-red" (Hume).
Measurements. Wing 216 to 244 mm.; tail 125 to 138 mm.; tarsus about 29 to 31 mm.; culmen about 16 to 17 mm. " Weight 10 oz." (Hume).
Young birds have narrow pale buff margins to the feathers of the upper parts and wings; the white of the underparts is sullied with buff.
Distribution. Throughout the Himalayas from Afghanistan to Western Ladak and South to Garhwal and Sikkim *. West it breeds in Afghanistan and it has been recorded as breeding as far North as the Altai.
Nidification. The Snow-Pigeon breeds in colonies throughout its habitat between 10,000 and 12,000 feet and less often a thousand feet higher or lower. The colonies are often of considerable size. The nests are placed in crevices or caves in the face of cliffs and sometimes on ledges of rock, being made of sticks, grass, straw, feathers, etc., well interlaced or matted together and nearly always very dirty and verminous. The nests are apparently made use of year after year, though a little repairing may be done or a little superstructure added. The eggs, two in number, Rattray once took three, are of the usual Pigeon character, though often much stained, Twenty-five average 38.2 X 28.0 mm.: maxima 42.8 x 29.3 and 40.8 x 31.2 mm.; minima 34.6 X 26.3 mm.
Habits. The Snow-Pigeon is resident wherever found, though it may leave the highest elevations in Winter, at which season it also descends lower than it breeds in Summer. Peneau found it at 5,000 feet in Chitral and Ward records it down to 7,000 feet in Kashmir. It consorts in very large nocks, haunting steep cliffs, rocky ravines and valleys and feeding on berries, grain, buds and shoots of certain plants. Finn describes its note as u not a coo, but a repeated croak, not unlike a hiccough." Where the habitat of the Blue Rock-Pigeon and the Snow-Pigeon overlap, the two sometimes mingle in the same flock and feed and roost together. It is said that when Snow-Pigeons are feeding on ground among patches of snow they are singularly inconspicuous and difficult to detect.
* Sikkim is the meeting-place of the two races, where they grade into one another, but the typical form seems to penetrate further East at the lower levels, 9,000 feet, than it does at the higher levels.