Chukar Partridge (Alectoris graeca)

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(Fig. 01)
Picture Notes: On 08/20/2013 Harvey and I came upon a covey of Chukar Partridge high up (at about 7,350 feet) in the Potosi Mountain Range behind Goodsprings, Nevada. Though the picture in (Fig.01) only shows four of them, I think I counted 10 in the covey. Unfortunately, the noise of our vehicle sent them running up and off the road in various directions (Figs 03 & 04). Though I sometimes often seen quail on our hikes, this is the first time I have ever encountered these fellas.
(Fig. 02)
Introduction and Habitat: Chukar Partridge (Alectoris graeca), is a subspecies of the red-legged rock partridge found over much of southern Eurasia. The Chukar was first introduced in Nevada in 1935 when the Nevada Fish and Game Commission released a total of 289 birds in nine counties. Through 1954, more than 6,000 Chukars were released in Nevada, and the birds inhabited 14 of the state’s 17 counties. From 1955-66, another 7,256 birds were released. A total of 13,655 Chukars have now been released in Nevada and they are established in all 17 counties. Currently, the state’s Chukar population is estimated at more than 500,000, making the state of Nevada its most successful establishment in the entire U.S. Nevada averages more than 12,000 Cukar hunters a year and during hunting season, hunters are now allowed to bag up to six per day. The Chukar Partridge has found its niche in this rugged Great Basin terrain, living from the valley floor below sea level in Death Valley National Park to as high as 12,000 feet in the White Mountains of Nevada and California. In Nevada, they generally occupy elevations between 4,000 and 9,000 feet.
Recent population study’s have revealed that the mountainous regions of the south western portion of Nevada have become a prime location for the Chukar Partridge. With grassy, steep hills rimmed with rocky outcroppings and studded with junipers and sagebrush, the Chukar has established itself here in what is obviously ideal habitat. Chukars like to be up high. Generally, if the terrain is nasty and gnarly, you will probably find Chukar. In Nevada,Chukars have been found roosting on the ground beneath sagebrush, under juniper trees, in the shelter of rock outcrops and in open rocky areas. They do not seek dense cover for roosting.
Due to the dry Mojave Desert like areas of southern Nevada the scarcity of water and food sources greatly affect Chukar migrations. Though they like the higher areas, because the desert is so desolate, you can sometimes find them in the more vegetation prone ravines that are fed water from the higher ridges. Even in higher elevations where there are plenty of rocks on the south and west facing slopes, the vegetation is sparse and sources of water few and far between. You will usually have better luck finding them on the north and, to a lesser degree, east facing slopes that hold more water and vegetation. Because burns are prevalent over many of Nevada’s forests and range lands, they contribute toward creating good Chukar habitat. After a burn, the remaining area usually sees a heavy growth of cheatgrass. Their daily migrations are motivated by basic needs: food, water and shelter. Chukar begin foraging for food in the morning and continue on and off throughout the day.
(Fig. 03)
(Fig. 04)
Description: The sexes of the Chukar are very much alike. Forehead and lines through the eye, down the neck and meeting as a gorget between the throat and upper breast, black; next the forehead pure grey, this color running back as an indistinct supercilium, often albescent posteriorly; crown vinous red changing to ashy on hind neck and again to vinous red on back and scapulars, and then once more to ashy on lower back, rump and upper tail coverts; ear-coverts are a dull chestnut; middle tail feathers ashy drab, outer feathers the same but pale chestnut on the terminal half; outer scapulars with pure pale grey centers; smaller and median coverts and innermost secondary's like the back; outer wing-coverts ashy; primaries and secondary's brown with a yellowish buff patch on the center of the outer webs; point of chin and below gape black; lores, cheeks, chin and throat white-tinged with buff to a varying extent; below the black gorget the breast is ashy-tinged more or less with brown and vinous at the sides, the lower breast being generally a pure French grey; abdomen, vent, thighs and lower tail coverts chestnut-buff or buff; feathers of the flanks grey at the base, with two black bars divided by pale buff and with chestnut tips. As you can see from (Fig. 02) the lines, feathers and colors of the bird are quite intricate.
This bird varies most extraordinarily in size, though males are bigger than the females, the extremes of size seem to be much the same in both sexes. The wing runs from 5.7 to 8 inches; with a tail approximately 3-4 inches. Males weigh between 19 to 27 ozs.; females 13 to 19 ozs.
Known predators of the Chukar Partridge in Nevada are the coyote, bobcat, great horned owl, prairie falcon, harp-shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, red-tailed hawk ad golden eagle. However, when the birds are in a healthy condition it is felt that predation is minimal. The Chukar is a very alert bird and, being a sentinal bird, usually sounds the alarm well ahead of the predator.