A plump game bird common in remote mountain regions of central Asia, the Himalayan snowcock was introduced to the Ruby Mountains of Nevada in the 1960s and 1970s, and a small established population of the birds there is a unique lifer opportunity for many North American birders.
- Bill: Gray, short, strongly downcurved culmen
- Size: 28 inches long with 36-inch wingspan, round body
- Colors: Tan, white, gray, chestnut, yellow
- Markings: Genders are similar with grayish tan plumage overall, a white face and throat, gray crown and auriculars and chestnut streaks framing the throat. Chestnut barring is prominent on the white upper breast and chestnut stripes extend down the flanks. Rump and tail are gray, and undertail coverts are white. White primary feathers are visible in flight. Legs and feet are yellow.
Grass, seeds, insects, roots
Habitat and Migration:
The Himalayan snowcock prefers alpine forests at high altitudes, particularly alpine meadows and rocky open areas such as outcroppings and ridges. Their native range is in the mountains of central Asia, including India, Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet, but they have been successfully introduced to the Ruby Mountains of northeastern Nevada. These birds do not migrate, but may range further up mountain slopes during the summer months when the snowline retreats.
These game birds can be noisy, and their typical calls include whistles, cackles and a light chuckle. Because they can be elusive, they are often heard before being seen, making birding by ear skills essential for birders hoping to locate them.
Himalayan snowcocks are wary birds that do not fly frequently, and even when threatened are more likely to walk out of danger. When they do take flight, they prefer to launch themselves from a ridge or cliff edge and stay close to the ground in flight. In the morning, these birds fly down the mountain slope to favored feeding areas, and spend the day walking back up the mountain while foraging.
These birds are monogamous and a mated pair will raise a single brood of 6-12 eggs each year, but the female does the majority of the incubation for 25-28 days. The female also cares for the precocial young until their first flight, and young birds may stay near their parents for a year until they take their own mates.
Attracting Himalayan Snowcocks:
These are not backyard birds, but they do return to the same regular feeding areas each day, giving birders a good chance for observations if they are able to be in position before the birds begin foraging, so approaching birders do not spook the wary birds.