(1993) Lerwa lerwa.
Perdix lerwa Hodgs., P. Z. S., 1833, p. 107 (Nepal). Lerwa nivicola. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 145.
Vernacular names. Lerwa (Bhut.); Janguria (Kuman) ; Kar Monal (Garhwal); Golabi Bhair, Ter Titur (Basahr etc.); Barf-ka-titur (Kulu) ; Bija (Ohamba).
Description. Whole head, neck and upper plumage barred black and buffy -white, the latter suffused with rufous-chestnut to a varying extent, more especially on the scapulars and innermost secondaries; primaries brown, tipped and speckled with dull white on the margins of the outer webs, the outermost primaries sometimes immaculate, probably in old birds; secondaries brown mottled and barred on both webs with white and broadly tipped with purer white on all but the innermost ; tail bailed with blackish-brown and mottled bars of white; below from the neck deep chestnut, the bases of the feathers marked with black and white; on the breast the white hardly shows but on the flanks and lower abdomen there are broad white streaks tinged with buff; on the inner flanks the white extends to the whole of the outer webs ; vent and under tail-coverts barred black, white and chestnut; under tail-coverts chestnut with black shaft-stripes and broad white or creamy-white tips.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown-red to blood-red; bill bright coral-red; legs and feet orange-red to deep red, deepest and brightest in the breeding-season.
Measurements. Total length about 375 to 400 mm,; wing 180 to 205 mm.; tail 118 to 138 mm.; tarsus 38 to 40 mm.; culmen 18 to 20 mm. This sexes do not appear to differ in size. "Weight 16 oz. to fully 22 oz. I have one bird noted as 25 oz." (Hume).
Meinertzhagen * separates the Szechuan birds under the name of Lerwa lerwa major on the grounds of their larger size. The wing of 9 Szechuan birds he gives as 190 to 203 mm. and of 41 Sikkim and Nepal birds as 179 to 194 ram., twice 197 and once 200 mm. Under the circumstances the division into races seems unnecessary and I retain all birds under the one name.
Full-grown but young birds seem to have the feathers of the breast centred and sometimes edged with black.
Young in first plumage are mottled above with dull brown and buffy-white. the shafts of the feathers white, showing conspicuously on the scapulars and innermost secondaries; below the whole plumage is mottled pale brown and buffy-white, with white central streaks on breast and flanks.
Chick in down. Centre of crown and nape, round the eye and posterior cheeks velvety-black; remainder of head, throat and sides of neck soft silvery-white; upper plumage chestnut-brown, a blackish mark down the centre of the back and on the thighs; below pale buff to chest nut-buff.
Distribution. The Himalayas from Afghanistan and Baluchistan East through Sikkim and Tibet to Moupin and Ta-tsien-lu in Western China. This Snow-Partridge seems to be confined to a comparatively narrow strip of country running for an immense distance East and West along the first two or three outer snow-ranges of the Himalayas. It is, however, possible that in Eastern Tibet its area of habitat may broaden out very considerably, for Col. P. M. Bailey has met with, and still more often heard of, what he believes to be this bird over a very widely scattered area. It does not occur on the cultivated and broad open plains of Central Tibet, though so common in Sikkim and the adjacent Southern Ranges.
Nidification. The Snow-Partridge breeds thoughout its range between 10,000 and 15,000 feet, but seldom below 12,000 feet. Whymper took many nests in Garhwal nearly all at about 14,000 feet or over; Whitehead took three' eggs between 12,500 and 14,000 feet in the Khagan Valley, and in Tibet and Sikkim they certainly breed up to 15,000 feet and perhaps 17,000 feet. The lowest elevations at which they have been taken are on Mongtba, about 10,000 feet, by Rattray and on Parachinar by Buchanan at 11,000 feet. For breeding and nesting purposes the birds keep as a rule to precipitous hill-sides, selecting a hollow under some sheltering rock, either scratched out by themselves or already available. Rarely the eggs are placed on the bare ground, more often quite a neat compact nest of grass and moss is constructed and this again is frequently screened from view by grass or bushes. The hen-bird sits so close and the nests are so well hidden that they are difficult to find, though the cock-bird by his fussiness and agitation gives it away to those who understand his actions. The eggs number three to five, perhaps occasionally six or seven and in appearance are like poorly-marked speckly eggs of the Koklas. The groundcolour varies from a creamy to a warm rather dull buff and the markings consist of specks and freckles of light reddish scattered fairly thickly over the whole surface of the egg. In a few eggs the specks become small blotches and a few eggs, if carefully examined, also show secondary markings of grey and lavender. Fifty eggs average 54.6 X 35.0 mm.: maxima 57.2 X 35.5 and 54.7 X 37.0 mm.; minima 48.6 X 31.6 mm.
The breeding-season seems to be a long one. Whitehead obtained well-grown chicks and fresh eggs on the 2nd and 3rd July respectively whilst Whymper took the latter from April to the end of June.
Habits. The Snow-Partridge is found above the forest-line and up to the snow-line on steep and rocky ground where there is a certain amount of moss, bush, grass and other vegetation, between 12,000 and 17,000 feet, above which height ic was seen during the Everest Expedition. In Summer it has been recorded as low as 7,000 feet, an exceptionally low elevation. Their calls are loud harsh whistles, varying somewhat in tone and loudness but all much alike, whether expressing fear and anger or merely a call to one another when separated. The call to the young is a softer lower note, replied to by the young with a cheep like that of a barn-door chicken. They collect in coveys of half a dozen to thirty or so and when first disturbed rise in a bunch but often scatter on re-alighting and give several single and double shots. As they generally frequent very difficult and precipitous country, shooting them is a sport not to be despised by anyone, more especially as the Snow-Partridge is reputed to be the finest of Indian Game-birds for the table.
They feed principally on seeds, moss, young shoots of various plants and berries but doubtless also on insects to some extent.