Lerwa nivicola


Lerwa nivicola.

Barf-ka-titar, Hindustani.

When high up after mountain sheep and goats, on rocky ground near the snow line, one may start a covey of dark birds with conspicuous white patches on their wings, which spin away with grouse-like flight—evidently partridges of some kind, for there are no true grouse anywhere in India even in these Himalayan heights. These alpine partridges, the Lerwa of the Bhutanese, would be recognizable even if they lived among others, for their closely cross-pencilled plumage with chocolate belly, and brilliant red legs and bill, are striking when close at hand. Yet in their own haunts the birds are hard to see on the ground, in spite of there not being enough cover to hide a sparrow; for the snow partridge is true to its name, and if possible, will be on ground where the only vegetation is moss and the shortest of grass, interspersed with bare stone and snow patches.

On the scanty vegetation of these heights the birds contrive not only to live, but to get and keep fat; their usual weight is over a pound, and may reach nearly a pound and a half. In winter they are perforce driven to the lower hills, but always keep to their preference for barren spots, and manage to keep in touch with the snow, not descending below 7,000 feet.

Although not .scarce birds and in some localities common enough for a hundred to be seen in a day's march, they are decidedly not generally distributed, and occur in localities often separated by a day's journey. Where rare, they are wild, but tamer where they are abundant, but in any case much shooting will naturally have the effect of making them less approachable ; in favourable circumstances, they rank as some of the best sporting birds, and only the superior attractions of four-footed game cause them to be neglected. Although best known as a Himalayan species, this bird extends outside our boundaries as far as Western China ; its western limit is Kashmir.

The call of these partridges is a loud harsh whistle, which they give out when approached, and they keep whistling when on the wing. They go in flocks or coveys except during the breeding-season, and even then sometimes several old birds may be found along with a number of young, as in the case of the snow-cock, which these birds resemble so closely in appearance and note when on the wing that unless it is possible to make out the great difference in size they are difficult to tell apart; but the snow-cock is found on rather different ground, and is wilder and takes longer flights.

They breed, as they live by preference, as near the snow-line as possible, on rather rough ground, on the ridges jutting out from the snow. The eggs are laid under a rock, apparently about the end of May, since chicks, according to Wilson, were first to be seen about the 20th of June. The eggs are large for the size of the bird, being bigger than those of the chukor, and are freckled with reddish brown on a dull white ground. About half a dozen chicks seem to occur in a brood ; they are mottled grey and black above, with three black stripes on the head, rufous under-parts, and black bills; a certain amount of black remains on the beak when they are full feathered. The old ones show great attachment to them, sometimes shamming lameness in the well-known partridge fashion, and at other times walking away before the intruders with piteous calls, while the little ones squat, or creep under the stones.

The snow-partridge is very good eating, and after keeping a few days resembles a grouse in flavour as much as in appearance. Besides the Hindustani equivalent of " snow-partridge," the bird is also called Bhair titar, Ter titar, and Golabi titar, while the Chamba name is Biju and the Kumaun one Janguria ; Quoir monal is given as the title in Garhwal.

Indian Sporting Birds
Finn, Frank. Indian Sporting Birds. Edwards, 1915.
Title in Book: 
Lerwa nivicola
Book Author: 
Frank Finn
Page No: 
Common name: 
Snow Partridge
Snow Partridge
Lerwa lerwa
Term name: 

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