Himalayan Snowcock

Tetraogallus himalayensis

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 1, 1998
  • Glen C. Christensen

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Figure 1. Distribution of Himalayan Snowcock in North America.

This species is native to Asia, but has been successfully introduced into Nevada. See text for details.

Himalayan Snowcock male; Humboldt Nat. Forest, Nevada.

; photographer Various

Nevada, with 96,000 km2of upland game-deficient habitat, has long been a leading advocate of exotic game bird introductions. The most successful attempt was introduction of the Chukar (Alectoris chukar; see Christensen 1996), which is now the most popular game bird in the state. As a result of investigations to find additional species that could fill a niche in the state, the Himalayan Snowcock (also referred to as Snow Partridge [Dement'ev et al. 1952: 207]) was selected as a bird that could fit into the high alpine meadow areas of some of Nevada's mountain ranges, where there was a dearth of native upland game species. After many difficulties, the first Himalayan Snowcock was brought into the United States in 1961, when the Nevada Division of Wildlife received 1 live bird, of 6 that had been purchased, from the Mir of Hunza, Pakistan. Subsequent importations resulted in the acquisition of a sufficient number of birds to make an initial release of 19 wild birds in the Ruby Mountains of northeastern Nevada in 1963 and to initiate a game farm propagation program. The breeding program produced enough birds for annual releases to be made during the period 1970–1979, and the species was established by the early 1980s.

The habitat of the Himalayan Snowcock is primarily high alpine meadow, between the elevations of 2,743 and 3,353 m surrounded by steep mountain peaks, escarpments, sheer cliffs, and steep slopes and drainages. Old World accounts provide most of the information available on this species. In North America, attention has focused on securing, propagating, and releasing the Himalayan Snowcock for establishment in the state of Nevada. Some intensive follow-up studies were conducted by Nevada Division of Wildlife personnel and University of Nevada student aides to determine how the released birds fared and if they were reproducing.

Because of the difficulty in accessing the habitat of this species, and because of its elusive sporting characteristics, the Himalayan Snowcock has become a trophy game bird for sportsmen. Interestingly, it has also drawn considerable attention from “birders” who wish to add this species to their life list, and have no inhibitions concerning the difficulty involved in hiking to the area, or failing that, in chartering helicopter flights to a site where they can be observed.

Recommended Citation

Christensen, G. C. (1998). Himalayan Snowcock (Tetraogallus himalayensis), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.328