43. THE TIBETAN SNOW-COCK.
Tetraogallus tibetanus, Gould.
First ten quills of the wing brown tipped with white.
Vernacular Names :—None known.
The Tibetan Snow-Cock has been 'observed at many points along the Himalayas, just within the northern limits of the Indian Empire from Sikhim westwards to Kash¬mir. Its proper home is to the north of the Himalayas, in Turkestan, Tibet and Western China.
This Snow-Cock is found at elevations varying from 15,000 to 19,000 feet in summer, and lower down in the winter, but to what level it descends has ap¬parently not been ascertained.
According to Dr. Scully, who met with these birds in the Sanju Pass, " they associated in coveys of from ten to twenty, and were not very shy. When approached from below they moved leisurely up hill, stopping every now and then to look at one, but when shot at or alarmed they flew downwards very swiftly, uttering a pleasant musical whistle. I found their flesh most delicious eating."
Colonel Prjevalski has a very interesting note on this species. He says: "These birds are very wild, and when alone the old birds do not allow themselves to be approached within a hundred paces. They hide themselves between stones and usually spring up and take to flight, or else try to run, which they do so fast that a man cannot catch them. We noticed that when they are approached from the bottom of a hill they commence running, but if from the top they at once get up. When settling on the ground they shake their tails several times, just as our Willow Grouse do." .
Nothing appears to be known about the nidification of this species, but in the Hume Collection there is an egg of this bird which was taken three miles south of the Pangour Tso. It is in all respects similar to some of the eggs of the Himalayan Snow-Cock contained in the same collection, but is of course smaller, measuring only 2.45 by 1.7.
In this bird, the crown and the sides and back of the neck are dark grey. The whole upper plumage, with the greater part of the visible portion of the closed wing, is rufous-grey finely vermiculated with black, the upper portion of the mantle much paler, and the rump and the wings bordered with pale rufous or creamy white. The middle tail-feathers are rufous mottled with black ; the others mostly black. The first ten quills of the wing are brown tipped with white. A broad streak from the eye, passing over the ear, is white ; also the chin and throat. Across the breast there are two bands of grey with a white band between. The lower plumage is white streaked with black.
In birds apparently not adult, the sides of the neck and the whole breast are mottled and barred with black, grey and rufous.
The sexes in this species do not differ much in size. Length about 20; wing about 10 1/2, tail about 7 ; legs red; irides brown or reddish brown; bill red in male, greenish in female; skin round the eye red.