Table of Contents
Species– Alectoris chukar
The chukar (Alectoris chukar) belongs to the family Phasianidae. It is an upland gaming bird. At first, chukar was considered a species of partridge as rock partridge, Philpy’s partridge, and Przevalski’s partridge.
They are mainly distributed to Asia but are now also found in parts of North America and New Zealand.
Chukar consists round body with small wings and feathers with black and white marks. The body appears light brown to grey that may change between populations. A solid black band forms a necklace-shaped ring and represents the face of the chukar and the breast have a white section.
A red outline covers their black eyes, which also matches their red beak. The legs are also red with clawed toes. A spur is present in the legs of males, which is absent in females. Females are also shorter than males.
The choker can be found throughout Asia including the western Himalayas to Nepal and also occur in northern Africa on the Sinai Peninsula. They prefer their habitats in rocky, grassy, and open hillsides in scrublands.
They usually reside in higher altitudes but in some areas, they are also found in low altitude areas. It is a common game bird of hunters for this they are now introduced to New Zealand, Hawaii, and mainland North America and to other parts of the world. They are non-migratory birds.
Chukar Predators and Threats
Chukar usually lives in small groups of around 10 birds. They prefer grassy lands and low-lying mountains for their habitats. The predatory organisms especially mammals feed on the chukar. For example, they are hunted by coyotes and bobcats in North America.
They can be easily targeted thus sometimes hunted by owls, hawks, eagles, and other larger birds. Chukars can fly but their body shape, short wings make it difficult and keep them on the ground. They prefer to run when disturbed.
The distribution of these birds around the world is also done for hunting and they have long been hunted by humans also. People use various unique techniques such as they force the bird to fly longer than its ability and tire it, at last chukar allow them to catch them.
But unlike many other species, chukar is not facing any habitat loss due to human development. However, the weather patterns affecting the populations especially during their breeding season.
Global climate change also has some impacts on local weather patterns. Seasonal events are also affecting by climate change that increases extreme weather events such as storms. These events have also an impact on chukar populations.
The food of chukar is primarily made of seeds but they are omnivores thus also eat insects. In arid parts, to avoid scarcity of water, they also eat succulents.
Chukar Nesting and Reproduction
They pair up with their mates in the breeding season. Males perform various display activities such as pecking at food to impress the female and female joins male if impressed. Males then catch females with their dropped wings, ruffled feathers, and low heads.
During this time, males or cocks often become aggressive to find a mate that often results in conflicts. After pair up, males remain monogamous and only mate with a particular female for at least during that breeding season.
The copulation is followed by nest formation, which is done by female chukar. She use grass and other soft materials and made a small depression in the ground to make a nest.
The female lays 7-14 eggs at a time, which are incubated for 3-4 weeks before hatching. Chicks form a convoy with other females until the next breeding season.
Fun Facts About Chukar!
i. Spelled just like it sounds
Chur sings a noisy song chuck-chuck-chukar-chukar therefore it gets its name chukar. They make this sound, especially in the mornings and evenings. A ‘rally’ call is one of their calls they used to bring the group together to protect them from a predator or any other threat such as storms. They also named Keklik and chukker in some parts of the world.
ii. The Evolution of Flight
Young chicks of chukar cannot fly until they learn a technique called “wing-assisted incline running”. The technique is considered as a model to explain the evolution of flight in avians. The technique is also present in many other bird species.
In wing-assisted incline running, the bird moves upslope while flapping their wing that helps them move up slopes easier than without the aid of their wings. This technique is seen in young birds of many species before learning to fly.
iii. Not like the others
In the past, chukar species were considered members of partridge species such as rock partridge (Alectoris graeca). But the phenotype of chukar partridge is different from the rock partridge, it has a browner back and more yellowish throat section than the rock partridge.
The red-legged partridge has a similar appearance as chukar. The Barbary partridge (Alectoris Barbara) consists reddish-brown collar and a grey throat and face that can be easily distinguished by the black collar of the chukar.
The chukar species are also distinguished based on their ranges. For example, the area of the Middle East and Asia is occupied by chukar which is replaced by the red-legged partridge species in southeastern Europe.
The chukar and partridge species also interbreed on getting the opportunity and also show various physical similarities but eventually, they are separated as different species.
They may share a common ancestor and undergo speciation due to their geographical divisions. The hybridization of captive stocks of these species is a threat to wild populations thus it is banned in many parts of the world.
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Effect of sex ratio, storage time and temperature on hatching rate, fertility and embryonic mortality in Chukar partridge (Alectoris chukar). Anim Reprod Sci . 2019 Apr;203:68-74.
Phylogeography of chukar partridge (Alectoris chukar) in China based on mtDNA control region. Mitochondrial DNA A DNA Mapp Seq Anal . 2017 Jul;28(4):473-481.