HIMALAYAN SNOWCOCK IN NEVADA!
I believe the most difficult bird to locate in the United States is the Himalayan Snowcock. Native to Pakistan, it was introduced to the Ruby Mountains in 1963 by the Nevada Game Commission to promote hunting and tourism. They are now considered “wild” as an established population of less than 1,000 of these pheasant-sized birds exist above tree-line at elevations greater than 11,000 feet.
The only way to see one is to helicopter through this rugged area (some of you may recall the harrowing scene in the “Big Year” movie) OR hike to a location where a spotting scope is needed to scan the distant ridges.
A 3am departure from our hotel followed by a 45 minute drive and 90 minute ascent from 7,000 to 9,000 feet put us at the only spot in America where one has a chance to view this creature. They tend to be most active at dawn as they descend from the remote ridges to lower level meadows to feed on plants and insects.
Within minutes of arriving at “the spot”, a leader from another bird group exclaimed there were three Snowcocks at the tippy top of the ridge. Too distant for binocular viewing, thankfully everyone managed good looks through scopes as the camouflaged birds scurried in and out of view amongst crevices of the craggy rock face wall.
A Georgia Audubon fellow (Thank You Adam!) did capture a ten second video of one. Look closely!
Incredibly satisfied, our WildSide tour group posed below for a team shot at 6:30am. #792!