(1986) Perdix hodgsonii hodgsonii.
THE TIBETAN PARTRIDGE.
Sacfa hodgsonii Hodgs., J. A. S. B., xxv, p. 165 (1857) (Tibet). Perdix hodgsoniae. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 142 (part.).
Vernacular names. Sakpha (E. Tibet) ; Rakpa (Central Tibet); Chetra (Konglo).
Description. Line round the base of the bill black, followed by a white line extending back over the eye as a supercilium; a second black line is followed by the rich chestnut forehead and sides of the crown, the centre of the latter browner and mottled with black and white; nape and hind-neck greyish-brown mottled with white and, to a less extent, with black; a broad chestnut collar at base of hind-neck ; back, rump and upper tail-coverts blue-grey, barred and stippled with black and a little rufous ; central tail-feathers the same but more boldly barred with black; lateral tail-feathers chestnut, narrowly edged with black stippled with fulvous; wing-coverts and inner secondaries with bold central streaks of pale fulvous bordered with black, a few bold bars of deep chestnut and pale fulvou3 and the rest with fine stippled lines of black, grey and fulvous; quills brown, barred with light chestnut and whitish; ear-coverts blackish-chestnut with white bases; hind-cheeks black ; fore-cheeks, lores, chin and throat fulvous-white with a black border joining the black cheeks; fore-neck white or creamy-white, with a narrow chestnut band meeting the chestnut hind collar; below white, the centre of the breast with broad black bars, which sometimes coalesce to form a completely black patch on the abdomen ; sides of breast and flanks marked with chestnut patches and with bold blackish-chestnut bars ; vent and under tail-coverts pale fulvous or fulvous-white, sometimes marked with tiny speckly bars of black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown or red-brown ; orbital skin deep velvety crimson in the breeding-season, dull reddish-crimson at other times; bill pale horny-green; legs and feet pale greenish-brown or pale livid greenish.
Measurements. Length about 300 mm.; wing 155 to 165 mm.; tail about 86 to 91 mm.: tarsus about 40 to 43 mm.; culmen about 15 to 17 mm. The female has a wing of about 150 to 155 mm.
Young birds have no tinge of blue-grey above ; the chestnut is absent everywhere; the lower parts are a dull earthy-buff, the breast with pale striae and indefinite narrow bars of dull black ; the crown, cheeks and ear-coverts are dark brown with white apical spots.
Distribution. Tibet, from the extreme West to the East where it meets P. h. sifanica, a smaller and less richly-coloured race. On the West it is replaced by another form in Ladak and in North-East Kashmir. It is not rare in the highest valleys of both Sikkim and Nepal but does not occur anywhere near Darjeeling. It is found in both the Abor and Mishmi Hills.
Nidification. This Partridge breeds all over Tibet between 12,000 and 15,000 feet, Occasionally up to 17,000 and down to 11,000 feet. It commences to lay in the middle of May and eggs may be found until the middle of August though the vast majority are laid in June. The site selected varies a good deal. Some nests are made in the bare rocky plateaux where there is no vegetation beyond a few stunted bushes and tufts of coarse grass; others are placed in the small thorny scrub so common on the Tibetan plateaux, whilst a few may be found in standing crops. There is no real nest; just a hollow, natural or scratched out by the birds leeward of a bush or boulder, sometimes devoid of all lining, at others with a mass of wind-blown leaves and rubbish. The eggs number eight to twelve, whilst Prjevalsky speaks of clutches of fifteen and over. The eggs are very like those of the Common Partridge but longer and narrower. The ground-colour varies from a pale reddish-buff, which is rare, to a warm clear olive ; the texture is fine and close and faintly glossy. One hundred and fifty eggs average 37.6 x 27.2 mm.: maxima 43.0 X 26.3 and 39.2 x 28.4 mm.; minima 34.7 x 27.1 and 38.1 x 24.9 mm. The hen-bird is said to be a very close sitter and the cock-bird to assist in looking after the young.
Habits. Hume found this Partridge on the most bare and desolate plateaux with only a few odd patches of mossy herbage but Bailey says they prefer places where there are growing crops, grass and bushes and that in these places good sport may be had, he himself bagging 48 and 43 on two days. They consort in coveys of ten or a dozen, rise well and get away quickly and when they re-alight often scatter considerably. Bailey says that they call one another with a curious buzzing sound exactly imitated by the creaking lid of a lunch-basket."
They feed on all kinds of seeds, berries, insects etc. and their flesh tastes much the same as that of the English Partridge.