Tibetan Snowcock    Tetraogallus tibetanus


  • Tetraogallus : Latin word tetrao game bird, probably the Black Grouse ; gallus- farmyard cock
  • Tibetanus: From Tibet

Vernacular names:Turki: Utarutar, Mongol: Hailik, Bhutia: Hrak-pa

Distribution in India: Resident of Himalayas in India.

Description: Size of 50–56 cm; wt. of male is 1500–1750 g,wt. of female is 1170–1600 g. It has white underparts with heavy blackish streaks on flanks; head pattern also characteristic, with white post ocular patch above dark lower cheeks, and has two grey bands across breast.The Iris is brown, bill horn-coloured to reddish, and facial skin and legs rose-red. The female is smaller than male, with less well-defined head and neck pattern, has post ocular stripe suffused buff.The male has one short spur and female has none.  The juvenile is like small, dull female, but theupper parts have buffish shaft-streaks and underparts virtually unmarked, lacking black striping and have irregular pale spotting and scaling on neck- and breast-sides. The First-year male is also much like female, but has coarser breast markings and a weak, whitish supercilium.

Habitat:It is found in alpine pastures and stony ridges with sparse grass covering above tree-line. It is found from 2500 m to 5800 m.

Food habits: It eats grasses and herbs. It forms coveys in winter, feeding with Himalayan Monal and blue sheep.During winter, they descend to lower altitudes and move around in coveys. When approached from below on a hill slope, they move up, stopping every now and then to look at the intruder, but when alarmed they fly away downwards crossing the valley/ravine. The flight is swift and will often make a whistling call in flight. They call several times while alighting and on settling from flight they shake their tails several times in the manner of “willow ptarmigan”. They call in the morning and evening, becoming quite in the middle of the day. They keep to grass-covered plateaus and ridges or to the more barren and stony plains with very little vegetation. Though they do not keep sentries during feeding, while resting in the middle of the day, one or more of adult birds mount high boulders and keep a watch, warning the flocks on the approach of danger with loud prolonged whistles.

Breeding habits: They breed in May to Jul in Himalayas. The nest is a depression in ground, usually concealed by boulder or shrub, sparsely lined with grass and dead leaves. They lay a clutch of 4-5 eggs.The incubation is done by female. The male stands sentinel while the females incubate. Both parent birds accompany the brood and adults perform distraction displays when the young are threatened.