Native to Eurasia, the indigenous chukar populations range from mountainous areas in the Mediterranean islands, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Bulgaria, east through Russia and China and south into Pakistan, Nepal and India. Chukars have been successfully introduced as a game species into western North America, the Hawaiian Islands, England and New Zealand. Chukar were first introduced into North America in 1893 by W.O. Blaisdell from Illinois who imported five pairs from India. Alectoris chukar was introduced en masse during the 1930's and have established populations in all of the western states and into Canada.
Historically, Nevada, Oregon and Idaho have been the top producing states. Huntable populations also exist in northeastern California and the Mojave Desert, eastern Washington, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana (primarily in Carbon County) and south central British Columbia. Arizona has a relatively small chukar population in the extreme northern portion of the state and small populations of uncertain status have been reported from New Mexico, western South Dakota, and southern Alberta [1-6, 19].
Adult chukars are about 15 inches (38 cm) in length with a wingspan of 17 inches (43 cm). Males weigh in from 1 ¼ to 1 ¾ pounds (510-800 grams) and are somewhat larger than females, 1 to 1½ pounds (450-680 grams). Chukar plumage and coloration is similar for both sexes, but beaks, legs and feet of the male tend to be slightly brighter red.
Both sexes can have a small tarsal spur, but usually this is characteristic of males. Juveniles are smaller and are mottled brown and gray, with only slight brown barring on flanks. In its native habitat, coloring can vary geographically; birds in more arid areas tend to be grayer and paler [2-7].
Chukar inhabit open, rocky, dry mountain slopes or canyon walls from below sea level to 12000 feet (3700 meters). Seasonal movements may include altitudinal migration of 5-10 miles (8-16 kilometers) from lower elevations in winter to higher areas for summer. In January, 2003, I recorded the elevations of 14 coveys of chukar that I observed in the mountains of northern Nevada. The average elevation was 6344 feet (1934 meters) ranging from a low of 5508 feet (1679 meters) to a high of 7043 feet (2147 meters).
Rimrock, the edges of rock falls and rock outcroppings are favored chukar spots. Chukars use the rocky terrain for protection against the elements and natural predators. They loaf in the shade of overhanging rocks during hot weather and find nooks for roosting in tail-to-tail formations to survive the winter cold. You can spot these perennial roosts by the abundance of chukar droppings. If you find one, there will likely be chukar nearby.
Chukars are opportunistic and forage on seeds and foliage of introduced grasses (especially cheat grass), shrub fruits, and various forbs in the sagebrush community according to relative abundance and seasonal availability. Cultivated grains are used when available, but chukar habitat in North America is generally not near agricultural land.
Young chicks primarily eat insects. Adults do not eat a significant number of insects, but are known to take locusts when available. In my experience, I have predominantly seen tender green grass shoots in their crop along with a few seeds and the occasional grasshopper[1-4, 9].
In Hawaii, different foods are available, but native shrub fruits and introduced herbaceous plants are still important. According to Tod, an Oregonian who lived in the islands for 18 years, "chukars subsist on weeds like dandelions that grow in between the rocks and crevices. They also eat heavily on a native shrub that grows about thigh high and produces lots of small red berries. It is called Pukiawe (Styphelia spp). There have been many times when I've come upon roosting areas in small protected washes that have contained lots of chukar droppings with lots of Pukiawe seeds within."
Chukars roost on the ground under brush or outcrops. Nests are simple scrapes, sometimes lined with grass or feathers, in rocky or brushy areas. They are difficult to find and are not well studied. I've only found one in all my days of wanderings. Well, to be accurate, my wife found it and pointed it to me. I had my camera with me, but I didn't have the foresight to take a picture of it. I won't make that mistake next time!
Nesting chukars and chukar broods are normally found within 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of water. Clutch sizes will vary with environmental condition from seven to twenty-one. Incubation lasts approximately 24 days and is usually a female activity. Hatching can occur from May until August, depending on the success of the first clutch. Broods average 10.5 chicks, but fluctuate. Young are precocial, i.e., able to move around on their own soon after hatching and are capable of flight within a few weeks. Chukar reach adult size in 12 weeks. Males may remain until chicks are reared, though some are reported to leave after clutch completion and regroup with other males. The reproductive habits of the chukar are not well documented and much remains to be learned[1-3].
The primary social group is a covey, consisting of varying numbers of adults and their offspring. Covey sizes that I've encountered range from less than a handful to more than 200 birds. Covey size depends on many factors, including but not limited to time of year, rainfall and weather. In dry conditions, the birds range congregate around water sources but will range 2-3 miles (3.2-4.8 kilometers) away. After a rain, they'll scatter to the four winds and the coveys will be reduced to their family groups. All of the big coveys (100+) I've observed have all been in the late season. These large coveys are formed as larger, unrelated groups come together and mingle.
Chukars use a number or vocalizations in interactions that are divided into three categories: alarm social contact, agonistic, and sexual. The most common call is a low chuck, chuck, chuck used by both sexes that changes gradually to a chukar-chukar-chukar and can be heard from long distances. Hence, the name chukar [1-3].
However, when stressed (over-grazing, drought, fire, extreme cold, heavy snow...), chukars are highly susceptible to predation. Magpies, ravens, and various ground predators including snakes are known to prey on chukars in the nest. Predators of adult chukars include skunk, badger, raccoon, fox, coyote, wolf, bobcat, mountain lion and a plethora of raptors..
- How To Hunt Wild Chukar Partridge
- Academy of Alectoris Chukar
- Guns to Hunt Wild Chukar Partridge
- Gear to Hunt Wild Chukar Partridge
- Dogs for the Desert
- Where To Find Wild Chukar Partridge
- Hunt Strategies and Tactics for Wild Chukar Partridge
- Chukar Partridge FAQs
- Chukar Tales and Red-Legged Liars
- Weather Conditions and Forecasts for Chukar Country
- Chukar Partridge References