40. THE TIBETAN PARTRIDGE
Perdix hodgsonice, (Hodgson).
First ten quills of the wing barred on both webs with rufous. Tail largely chestnut.
Vernacular Names :—None known.
The true home of the Tibetan Partridge is Tibet, and this bird rarely enters British territory. Messrs. Hume and Marshall thus give its distribution in the Himalayas : " The Tibetan Partridge only just crosses from Chinese Tibet into our territories. The first specimen, indeed, ever shot by an European was killed by Mr. Wilson in the autumn of 1841, when shooting Chukor in the fields near Sukhi, a village high up in the valley of the Bhagirathi and near the snowy range in which, a few marches eastwards, Gangotri is situated. But it has never since been met with on the southern side of the first snowy range, though year after year Mr. Wilson hunted for it in this same locality. Subsequently it has been repeatedly met with on several of the passes leading from the valley of the Indus to the head of the Pangong lake, and about the lake itself; it has been shot near the Buddhist monastery at Hanle, and near the foot of the Lanak Pass ; and it has been obtained at the extreme north of both Kumaun and Garhwal."
In the British Museum there are skins of this Partridge obtained in Ladak; at Nobra, north of Ladak ; and at Darjiling.
Mr. Hume thus refers to the one occasion on which he met with these Partridges : " The birds were in pairs, apparently far from wild, but absolutely invisible when amongst the bare stones and rocks, and I should certainly have passed them unnoticed but for their vociferous calls, which seemed to me so like those of our English bird that I took some trouble in searching the neighbourhood with the dogs. I put up several pairs, and shot three or four. I noticed that when flushed they only flew a short distance, and that their whirring rise and flight were precisely that of the European bird, and very different to that of the Chukor. The entire aspect of the hillside where these birds were found was dreary and desolate to a degree no grass, no bushes, only here and there, fed by the melting snow above, little patches and streaks of mossy herbage, on which I suppose the birds must have been feeding."
This beautiful Partridge is probably not found below an altitude of 12,000 feet.
The nest of this species was discovered by Major Barnes on the 12th July with ten fresh eggs in the pass leading from the Pangong valley to the Indus valley at an elevation of about 19,000 feet. He states that to the best of his recollection the nest was a mere indentation in the ground, in grass amongst low dwarf bushes. One of these eggs is now in the British Museum. There is also another egg in the same collection presented by Colonel Biddulph, who procured it in Ladak. These two eggs are very similar, but one is rather more pointed than the other. In shape they are oval, with a good deal of gloss. Both eggs are clay-coloured, without marks of any kind. They measure respectively 1.77 by 1.2 and 1.64 by 1.18.
The male and female of this species are quite alike. The forehead and a broad streak over the eye are white ; the crown of the head is rufous with white streaks. There is a broad chestnut collar nearly-surrounding the neck, not quite complete in front. The back and shoulders are buff, barred with chestnut and black; the closed wings are a mixture of buff, black and chestnut with paler buff stripes; the quills are barred on both webs with rufous. The rump and the middle three pairs of tail-feathers are buff, irregularly barred with chestnut, the other tail-feathers are chestnut tipped with whitish. The throat and upper neck are white. The lower plumage is pale buff barred with black, except the sides of the body which are barred with chestnut. There is a large black patch on the cheek.
The male is rather larger than the female. Length 11 to 12; wing rather more than 6; tail rather more than 3 1/2 ; legs and bill dull green; naked skin round the eye red. According to Mr. Hodgson the weight of this Partridge is 1 lb.