Birds – Snow Partridges, Pheasant-grouse, And Snow Cocks

The first of these that we may consider are the Snow Partridges and Snow Cocks of western Asia. In the Snow Partridge (Lerwa lerwa), which is about fourteen inches long, the sexes are similar in plumage, being black narrowly barred with whitish above, and mostly rich chestnut below, while the bill and feet are red. They are found in the higher ranges of the Himalayas and some portions of China, frequenting the more rugged, rocky portions at elevations between 10,000 and 15,000 feet, remaining near the snow in summer, but coming somewhat lower in winter or after severe snowstorms. They appear to be very tame and are reluctant to take wing, and when doing so only fly for short distances. They feed, it is said, on moss, grasses, and seeds, and are highly esteemed for their flesh although not often shot, “as those sportsmen who traverse its lonely haunts are generally in search of larger game.” But little is known of their nesting habits beyond the fact that the eggs are large and “dull white, freckled all over with reddish brown.” Closely allied but differing in larger size and in having a tail of eighteen instead of fourteen feathers, and the feathering on the tarsi scarcely extending below the joint, are the so-called Pheasant-Grouse (Tetraophasis), of which only two species are known, both confined to the higher parts of the mountains of Tibet and western China. They are seventeen or eighteen inches long, mostly dull olive-brown above, and gray spotted with black below. They are very rare, at least in collections, and but little is known of their habits. Very much larger than these, in fact the largest of the group, are the great Snow Cocks (Tetraogallus), of which eight species are now recognized, all of the higher mountains of Asia, from Asia Minor and the Caucasus to western China, the Altai Mountains, and the Himalayas. They inhabit such generally inaccessible places, often at elevations between 15,000 and 19,000 feet, that comparatively little is known of their habits. Of the several species we may mention the Himalayan Snow Cock (T. himalayensis), or Jermoonal, as it is known by certain of the native tribes where it dwells. It is a striking bird, over twenty-five inches in length, gray and buff above and dark gray below, with the throat and upper breast white separated by a chestnut band, the breast white-barred, and it is further marked by a distinct patch of chestnut on the sides of the nape. It occurs in the higher ranges of the Himalayas and the Altai Mountains, being, according to Wilson, “confined exclusively to the snowy ranges, or the large spurs jutting from them, which are elevated above the limits of the forest, but is driven by the snows of winter to perform one, and in some places two, annual migrations to the middle regions; in summer they are only seen near the limits of vegetation.” It is further gathered from Wilson that the Snow Cock is gregarious, congregating in packs sometimes to the number of twenty or thirty, but, in general, not more than from five to ten. They never enter the forests or jungle and even avoid spots where the grass is long and where there is underwood of any kind. “When feeding, they would walk slowly uphill, picking the tender blades of grass and young shoots of plants, occasionally stopping to scratch up a certain bulbous root, of which they seem very fond. When walking they erect their tails, bave a rather ungainly gait, and at a little distance have something the appearance of a large Gray Goose.” The nest is a slight depression in the ground near a rock or bush, and the eggs, from five to nine or even eleven in number, are olive or brownish, spotted and dotted with reddish.