The most distinguishing features of this attractive bird are the vivid black and white stripes that decorate the wings and the black band that runs across the eyes, resembling a blindfold. The upper body and head feathers of the chukar are brown, becoming more bluish-grey towards the lower body and tail. The face is white, and the beak is short, strong, and orange in colour. Chukar chicks have cream and brown down, with pale undersides (2). There are 14 subspecies of chukar, identifiable by differences in plumage and other morphological traits (3). Chukars inhabiting more humid areas tend to be darker and more olive in colour, while those in more arid areas are a paler grey or yellow (2).
Within its wide range, breeding times for the chukar vary, depending on location and altitude (2). This usually monogamous bird typically lays a clutch of 7 to 12 eggs, which are incubated for 22 to 25 days (2).
The diet of the chukar consists mainly of shoots, grains, bulbs and, particularly during the winter, the roots of grasses and shrubs which the chukar digs out of the soil (2). In the summer, ants and insects are also included in the diet, while chicks feed primarily on the seeds of grasses and weeds (2). Foraging begins in the morning as the chukar works its way uphill searching for food. Although it is a strong and fast flier over short distances, the chukar typically remains on the ground (2).
The chukar has an extremely large native range, spanning countries from Eastern Europe to China, Russia and Africa. Furthermore, it has been introduced to many other areas, including the United States, Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere within Europe. The species is currently regionally extinct from Kuwait (4).
A terrestrial bird, the chukar prefers dry and arid habitats (2)(4), characterised by stony slopes, short grass and shrubs, often situated near cultivation (2). The chukar is commonly found at 3,000 to 4,500 metres above sea level, descending from higher altitudes in winter (2).
The chukar has a large range and a large, stable population and so is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction (1). However, in some areas the chukar has been affected by habitat loss, for example in Azerbaijan (2). Harsh winters and pesticide use may affect populations in Turkey, and hunters and poachers can be a problem for this bird in the USA and Canada (2).
As the chukar is not currently considered to be threatened, there are no widespread conservation measures in place for this bird (4). However, the chukar has been a protected species in Turkey since 1990, due to a sharp population decrease in that area of its range (2).
McGowan, P.J.K. (1994) Family Phasianidae (Pheasants and Partridges). In: Del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (Eds.) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Randi, E. and Alkon, P.U. (1994) Genetic structure of chukar (Alectoris chukar) populations in Israel. The Auk, 111(2): 416-426.
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