Although found in our territory from Sikkim to Ladak, it is only at the highest elevations that this species of snow-cock is to be found, and even on the wing it may be noticed as something different from the ordinary kind, not showing the conspicuous white on the pinion-quills, which are dark with white tips instead of the reverse. Close at hand the differences in plumage are even more striking, for the grey colour of the upper-parts only extends across the breast, the belly being white with black streaks. Here again, then, there is a reversal of colours in the two species, the common snow-cock having a grey belly and white breast, slightly barred transversely with back. Moreover, although the legs are of much the same colour in both species, the bare skin near the eye is red in the present bird, and yellow in the other.
The Tibetan snow-cock is a much smaller bird than the Himalayan, the cock barely equalling the hen of that bird in size; and in the Tibetan species the hen is not much smaller than the cock.
The real home of this desolation-loving bird is the northern side of the mountains between India and Tibet, and it is generally distributed over the latter country, extending to Turkestan westwards, and east to Kansu and southern Koko-Nor. In the Himalayas it is seldom found lower than 15,000 feet, and occurs up to 19,000. A sure find for it appears to be the Sanpo Pass, where it is particularly common. Scully found it abundant near there in 1874, having seen hundreds in one day; he found them excellent eating and not very shy.
According to Prjevalsky who observed it in its north-eastern haunts, this is a lively, noisy bird, with several calls—a note, uttered at rest, much like a common hen's, varied by a snipe-like whistle, a click, click, when alighting, and a goooo, gooo when settling down on the ground; while it has a distinct whistle for reassembling a scattered brood.
He considered the birds, very wild, and found them good runners; but both he and Scully noticed that they would not stand an approach from above so readily as from below, flying in that case instead of running, and thus in this point resembling their Himalayan relatives.
This snow-cock does not seem to nest on our side of the hill's, and not very much is known about its breeding anywhere. But Prjevalsky found them pairing in April, and came across young in August, some no bigger than quails, and others full-sized ; so that, here again like the Himalayan species, they must lay at different times.
The eggs appear to be greenish-white with dark spots. Both parents lead the brood of from five to ten young, and when these are fledged, the whole take wing together and do not settle till they have put a ravine or valley between themselves and their pursuers. They moult in August, and even in September were not fat, though natives said that they did become so in autumn, so that towards winter they would probably be in good condition for the table.