Himalayan Quail, Ophrysia superciliosa

The Himalayan Quail, (Ophrysia superciliosa), is feared extinct as it was last verified in 1876. By 1904, this quail was considered very scarce, and to add to its scarecity, only two locations (northwest India and the western Himilayas) of the species are known. Even with numerous searches, their survival can not be counted out since they may be hard to spot. This medium-sized quail belongs to the pheasant family.

Unconfirmed records have been noted from 1952 up to 2003. There is a recorded local bird from Nepal named sano kalo titra which translates to “small black/dusky partridge”. It might be suggested that this sighting could only be a male Himalayan Quail since no other bird fits this description from this area.

Found in small groups consisting of five or six they are only believed to fly when provoked in tight surroundings.
The male and female both have a white spot in front of the eye and a larger one behind the eye. Along with the red bill these markings are unique. With a tail longer than most quails, the Himalayan Quail also has long tail feathers found around the base of the quill.
All recorded sightings of the Himalayan Quail were seen in brushwood on steep hillsides, namely on the east- or south-facing slopes and in small areas of tall grass, sometimes called “high jungle grass” or “tall seed-grass”.

The Himalayan Quail is seen on rare occasions. These quail fly only when approached up close and prefer staying in the tall grassland and escaping predators on their legs. It is indicated that their habit and mannerisms are similar to that of the Manipur Bush-quails.
The soft and fluffy plumage implies this bird adjusted to the low temperatures. Birds are rumored to have flown uphill and north to the higher mountains in the summer months. It should be noted that the size and shape of the wings do not imply this bird is able to fly long distances.

Today, attempts at sighting this bird in India have not been successful. Since tourism flourishes in the area, it is unusual that no one has spotted one of these birds. It seems that the well established population has changed their habitat dramatically, and the area is no longer suitable for them to exist.

It is possible that the Himalayan Quail was present in Nepal or might still exist there from what is known of the species’ requirements. Western Nepal is the most likely place for a remnant population of the Himalayan Quail to exist today since the habitat destruction is not as spread as in India and the local population is mostly vegetarian. However, due to the Nepal Civil War it is not safe for foreigners, therefore, there has been no follow-up to verify this.

Image Credit: John Gould/Wikipedia