(1896) Syrrhaptes tibetanus Gould.
THE TIBETAN SAND-GROUSE.
Syrrhaptes tibetanus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 277.
This grand Sand-Grouse is found within our limits in Ladak, Lahul and Sikkim, is very common in Tibet and extends North to the Pamirs and Koko Nor.
Ludlow in his paper on the birds of Gyantse-(Ibis, 1928, p. 216) says “I have never seen this bird below 14,000 feet in summer, and have seen it only once near Gyantse, and that was in the depth of winter. At Tuna, Dochen, and Kala, and in other places in the vicinity of the lakes, it is often met with, and I have encountered it on the mountain slopes when in pursuit of Ammon, and watched it in the early morning fly down to drink on the shores of the Rham-tso. Mr. P. Williamson, I.C.S., on 19. 6. 25, whilst hunting for Ammon at Neru, obtained a clutch of three eggs which he very kindly presented to me. The eggs were laid in a shallow depression on the bare mountain side at an altitude of 15,000 feet. There was no attempt at a nest, and it was only by disturbing one of the parent birds that the egga were discovered.”
In Ladak Osmaston met with it near the Tso Moriri Lake, 15,000 feet, at the end of June, and on the 18th of that month found a pair of freshly hatched young in down.
From the time Steen was Agent in Gyantse I have had the eggs sent me almost yearly by him and his successors. These all describe the bird as being a frequenter of high desert plateaux which are very bleak, hare and stony, or of the country surrounding very high elevation lakes at 14,000 to 16,000 feet. Many eggs have been sent me as from Gyantse, but it seems that all these have been taken from the surrounding hills about 2,000 feet higher than the Gyantse Plain, which is only 12,000-12,500 feet. Some men whom I sent to the Hram-tso Lake to hunt for eggs of Larus brunnicephalus sent me eggs of this bird which they said they had found on the hard and caked mud environment of the lake and above where the Gulls usually bred.
Every one describes the nest as a scratching in among the small stones or earth with no lining except in one case, and the leaves and scraps then found were probably wind-blown. They were very seldom under shelter of any kind, but were usually built on the lee¬ward side of a ridge or crest of a hill. The old birds sit very dose, often not moving until almost trodden on.
The breeding season is principally May and June, but I have a clutch of three eggs taken above Gyantse on the 17th April and have seen another set taken on the 24th July.
In the last ten years I have been fortunate in obtaining eggs in some numbers from D. Macdonald and his son John, and have also managed to acquire from other collections clutches taken by L. Weir, R. S. Kennedy and others, so that I now have a fine series.
In shape the eggs are typical of the Sand-Grouse. In colour they are stone-grey or stone-buff, as a rule rather dull and pale but, occasionally, a little warmer and brighter and sometimes tinged with yellowish. The markings consist of small primary blotches and specks of reddish-brown, rarely yellow or sienna-brown, scattered sparsely more or less over the whole surface and seldom more numerous at the larger end than elsewhere. The underlying marks are larger and in colour are pale washed-out inky or grey. In two clutches of three eggs each the markings are rather larger and bolder than usual, though still fewer in number, and are tinged with chestnut-brown.
Except for their greater size they are very like the eggs) of Pallas’s Sand-Gronse.
Forty eggs average 49.2 x 31.9 ram. : maxima 54.0 x 31.2 mm. and 48.5 x 34.6 mm. ; minima 44.0 x 29.0 mm.
Both sexes incubate but, beyond this, nothing more has been recorded except that they sit very close and will, if they think they have not been observed, sometimes allow passers by to come very near.
1896. Syrrhaptes tibetanus
(1896) Syrrhaptes tibetanus Gould.