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Chukar
Alectoris chukar
Order
GALLIFORMES
– Family
PHASIANIDAE
Authors: Christensen, Glen C.

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Introduction

Adult male Chukar; Kern Co., CA; September
Figure 1. Distribution of Chukar Partridge in North America.

The Chukar Partridge was first introduced into North America in 1893 (Cottam et al. 1940), when 5 pairs were shipped to Illinois from Karachi, India (now Pakistan). Further introductions proliferated in the decades following: Between 1931 and 1970, for example, roughly 795,000 Chukars were released in 41 states in the U.S. (including Hawaii), and 10,600 birds were released in 6 Canadian provinces (Christensen 1970).

The preferred habitats of this species are found in the Great Basin of the western United States and north through eastern Oregon, western Idaho, and eastern Washington where steep rocky mountainous terrain harbors a mixture of brush, grasses, and forbs. Although the Chukar inhabits some agricultural lands adjacent to rocky canyons or mountainous areas, it thrives on the overgrazed open ranges of the West, where no agriculture exists. Its primary foods are the leaves and seeds of annual and perennial grasses (primarily the introduced cheatgrass [Bromus tectorum]) and the seeds of various forbs associated with the sagebrush-grass vegetational type of the Great Basin or the saltbush-grass type in more southern areas.

Old World accounts about the Chukar are limited and deal primarily with taxonomy, distribution, and some basic life history. There has been a pronounced increase, however, in the scientific attention given to this bird since its establishment in North America (late 1940s to the present).

Studies initiated by state wildlife management departments and by universities have provided much new information on the ecology of this species and have spawned a host of new studies evaluating the management of this bird as a game species.

The Chukar has become a favorite of western sportsmen and ranks first in harvest among upland game birds in Nevada and Oregon, second in Washington, and third in Idaho. Chukar hunting is popular largely because of the attraction of pursuing a challenging quarry over large tracts of public land and the expectation of generally liberal season lengths and bag limits.