42. THE HIMALAYAN SNOW-COCK.
Tetraogallus himalayensis, Gray.
First ten quills of the wing white tipped with black
Vernacular Names -.—Kullu, Lupu, Baera, Western Nepal; Huinwall, Kumaon; Jer-moonal, Hills north of Mussooree ; Leep , Kulu; Kubuk, Gourkagu, Kashmir; Galound, Chamba.
The Himalayan Snow-Cock is found throughout the Himalayas from Kumaon westwards to Kashmir and Hazara, and extends to Gilgit. It ranges to Afghanistan on the west and to Central Asia on the north.
This fine bird inhabits the higher ranges of the Himalayas, being found in summer between 11,000 and 18,000 feet elevation, and descending in winter occasionally as low as 7000 or 8000 feet. It is fond of bare rocky ground. According to Mr. Wilson this bird "is gregarious, con- gregating in packs, sometimes to the number of twenty or thirty, but in general not more than from five to ten ; several packs inhabiting the same hill. In summer the few that remain on our side are found in single pairs generally ; but across the snow, where the great body migrate, I almost always, even then, found several together."
Colonel Biddulph, who met with this Snow-Cock in Gilgit, remarks:—"Common everywhere in favourable ground. It makes its nest at about 8000 or 9000 feet, and breeds early. Directly the young are hatched they go up to the lower edge of the snow in fact as high as they can. . . . I have never seen these birds in large flocks like T. tibetanus ; they are generally in pairs only. In the depth of winter, a few collect together, but when disturbed separate at once.
Mr. Hume speaks of the shy nature of these birds, and states that they can seldom be approached nearer than 100 yards, and that a bag can only be made with a rifle.
In Gilgit this bird breeds at the end of April or the commencement of May and constructs its nest in localities which vary in elevation from 8,00c to 10,000 feet. According to Mr. Wilson it breeds in other parts of the Himalayas at elevations Snow-Cocks. from 12,000 to 17,500 feet and, but very rarely, on the southern side of the snows.
The nest of this species is said to be a hole scratched in the ground near a stone or bush. The eggs are usually five in number, oval in shape and fairly glossy. The ground-colour is a stone-colour tinged with olive or brown and the whole egg is spotted with reddish brown. They measure from 2.5 to 2.8 in length and from 1.75 to1.98 in breadth.
In the male and female, the crown, the back of the neck and the mantle are grey. The whole upper plumage, with the greater part of the visible portions of the closed wing, is ashy-grey finely vermiculated with black, the feathers of the rump and the wings being bordered with rufous or chestnut. The middle tail-feathers are rufous grey mottled with black ; the others more or less chestnut marked with black. The first ten quills of the wing are white broadly tipped with black. The sides of the head and of the neck are white. A broad chestnut band stretches from the eye over the ear, expanding into a large patch on the shoulder, and another chestnut band margins the throat. The breast is white, each feather with a black band across it. The lower plumage is dark grey freckled with black, and the sides of the body are streaked with black and chestnut.
When this bird is not quite adult, the feathers of the forehead are mottled with brown.
Male : length about 26; wing 12 ; tail 8 : Female: length about 22; wing about 11, tail rather more than 7; legs red; irides brown; bill horn-colour; skin behind the eye yellow. Weight up to 6 1/2 lb.