Ochotona royleiRoyle's pika

Geographic Range

Ochotona roylei is distributed mainly in Nepal, Punjab, and Kashmir; Tibet; Szechuan and Yunnan provinces in western China; northern Burma.


Ochotona roylei prefers rocky areas and often nests in stone heaps. They can only survive in areas where there are ample subterranean cavities formed by the accumulation of loose slide rock. Occasionally, where forests grow on rocky areas, pikas use the subterranean spaces around root systems and below fallen trees. They generally live at lower elevations than the large-eared pika and occur in more mesic situations such as rhododendron, deodar and spruce forsts. They may also occasionally inhabit the rock wall huts of local people throughout their range.

Physical Description

Length from nose to rump is 150-200 mm. The fur is long, dense, soft and fine, and generally more rufous-colored along the head, shoulders, and fore part of the body in the summer. The remainder of the dorsal surface is dark grayish rufous. Ventrally, the coloration ranges from white to grayish-white to dark gray. The winter coat is similar but may show only traces of rufous coloration.


Pikas breed between late spring and summer. Sexual maturity is reached between 7-10 months. Gestation is approximately 30 days, and litter size varies from 2-6 although it is generally 3 or 4. A nest of plant material is built where females give birth to one or two litters per year. The young are weaned when about 1 month old. Life span is thought to be from 1-3 years.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 5
  • Average gestation period
    30 days
  • Range weaning age
    20 to 22 days


The warning call of pikas is a sharp bark or whistle with the body jerking forward and upward with each call, although Royle's pika is less vocal than other species. They generally dig tunnels under the snow in areas where show is at least 20 cm deep. Unlike other pikas, Royle's pika does not usually cure hay to store for consumption during difficult winter months. Hay-curing occurs when pikas gather grasses, sedges, weeds, and many woody plants in the late summer and lay them out on rocks to be dried in the sun. These piles are then stored at the entrances to pika burrows. Royle's pikas do not hibernate and are active mainly during morning and evening hours. They often sun themselves on rocks matching their coat color. These animals live in family groups composted of an adult male and a female and their offspring. As with many lagomorphs,Royle's pikas eat the feces they produce at night in order to maximize the nutrients they obtain from their food.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Royle's pikas eat a variety of grasses, sedges, weeds and woody plants fresh and sometimes in the form of hay which they make themselves (see behavior below). They also eat lichens and mosses, utilizing whatever plants they can find near their burrows.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Royle's pika occasionally inhabits the huts of native peoples and may become a pest by stealing grains or baked goods.

Conservation Status

There are currently no threats to the distribution or abundance of Royle's pika throughout its range. Because the geographic area of this species is often so far removed from humans, these animals rarely come into contact with human economic activities.

Other Comments

Some taxonomists include the large-eared pika, Ochotona macrotis, in Royle's pika, O. roylei, although they are generally regarded as separate species. Ochotona himalayana has also been considered a synonym for O. roylei.


Liz Ballenger (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.


Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.

Nowak, R.M. and J.L Paradiso. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World. 4th edition. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Orr, R.T. 1977. The Little-Known Pika. MacMillan Publishing Company, New York.

Smith, A.T. 1981. Population dynamics of pikas. In: Proceedings of the World Lagomorph Conference Held in Guelph, Ontario (K. Myers and C.D. MacInnes, eds.) University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario.

Smith, A.T., N.A. Formozov, R.S. Horrmann, Z. changlin and M.A. Erbajeva. 1990. The pikas. In: Rabbits, Hares and Pikas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. (J.A. Chapman and J.E.C. Flux, eds.) Information Press, Oxford, U.K.