Index of Species Information
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Alectoris chukar
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Alectoris chukar
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Sullivan, Janet. 1994. Alectoris chukar. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ .
COMMON NAMES :
Indian hill partridge
The currently accepted scientific name of the chukar is Alectoris chukar
Gray. It is a member of the pheasant family (Phasianidae) [1,4,16].
Previously, some authorities placed it as conspecific with rock
partridge (A. graeca), but it is now considered a distinct species
[1,16]. All of the introduced North American stock is apparently A.
All information in this write-up refers to North American populations.
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
WILDLIFE DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Alectoris chukar
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
The chukar is native to Eurasia. It has been widely introduced in North
America and is locally established from south-central British Columbia
south through eastern Washington, Idaho, and central and eastern Montana
to Baja California Norte, southern Nevada, Utah, and eastern Colorado.
Small populations of uncertain status have been reported from Arizona,
New Mexico, western South Dakota, and southern Alberta [4,8].
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
3 Southern Pacific Border
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K024 Juniper steppe woodland
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K040 Saltbush - greasewood
K055 Sagebrush steppe
SAF COVER TYPES :
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
238 Western juniper
239 Pinyon - juniper
241 Western live oak
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
PLANT COMMUNITIES :
In North America, the key plant species for chukar habitat is cheatgrass
(Bromus tectorum). The widespread dominance of cheatgrass has made
possible the successful introduction and establishment of chukars in the
Great Basin . The chukar inhabits sagebrush (Artemisia
spp.)-grasslands, and areas vegetated with ephedra (Ephedra spp.),
bitterbrush (Purshia spp.), currant (Ribes spp.), and rabbitbrush
(Chrysothamnus spp.) . In the southern portion of its range, the
chukar may be found in saltbush (Atriplex spp.)-grasslands , and
salt-desert shrubland . Chukars generally avoid climax pinyon
(Pinus spp.)-juniper (Juniperus spp.) habitat , although scattered
pinyons and junipers appear to be acceptable .
BIOLOGICAL DATA AND HABITAT REQUIREMENTS
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Alectoris chukar
TIMING OF MAJOR LIFE HISTORY EVENTS :
Chukars exhibit altitudinal migration, moving from higher elevations to
lower terrain during heavy snows. They may also move onto south-facing
slopes to escape inclement weather .
Chukars breed monogamously; pairing occurs from February to March or
April depending on latitude [3,13]. In New Mexico, nesting apparently
begins in April, with egg laying commencing in May; in Washington, the
average beginning date for egg laying is about April 20 . Males
appear to defend females rather than territory ; this finding is in
dispute, however . Males often desert the female after egg-laying;
in early fall males rejoin the brood during covey formation. Coveys are
formed by one or more broods [3,9], often shortly after hatching .
Clutch: Eggs are laid at a rate of one per day to one per 2 days .
Clutch size ranges from 10 to 20 eggs, with an average of 15 .
Clutch size is greatly reduced in drought years; in extreme drought,
breeding may not occur at all . Double brooding (production of two
consecutive broods in one season) was reported from captive birds, and
is suspected to occur in wild birds . Renesting following clutch
loss is normal .
Incubation: The incubation period is typically 24 days. The precocial
young leave the nest shortly after hatching [3,12,24].
Development: Individual flight attempts are usually made by about 2
weeks of age and as early as 10 days after hatching , brood flights
(where the entire brood makes a flight together) occur by 3 weeks of
age, and by 4 weeks of age the chicks have formed flight habits similar
to those of adult chukars. The brood and the adult female remain near
each other .
PREFERRED HABITAT :
The chukar inhabits open, rocky, dry mountain slopes, hillsides, or
canyon walls from below sea level to 12,000 feet (3,660 m) elevation
. Steep slopes appear to be preferred . Slope grade is usually
over 7 percent with a rise of at least 200 feet (60 m) . The chukar
is also found on open and flat deserts with sparse grasses and on barren
plateaus [4,16]. Nesting habitat is similar to foraging habitat: dry,
rocky slopes with open, brushy cover. In California, nesting chukars
and chukar broods are normally found within 2 miles (3.2 km) of water .
COVER REQUIREMENTS :
Chukars use rocky slopes for shade and escape cover. The hottest part
of the day is usually spent in shady cover . They roost on the
ground beneath sagebrush or junipers and in the shelter of rock
outcrops. They also roost in open rocky places; dense brush cover is
not required and is probably avoided . Bohl  described chukar
roosting cover in New Mexico as follows: (1) sides of bare rocks or on
the sides of mesas, halfway up or higher, among rocks, vegetation, or in
open, (2) on the ground in open grassy flats at the tops of mesas with
junipers or rocks within 15 feet (4.6 m), and (3) under junipers at the
tops of mesas. Chukars roost in coveys, either scattered or in
tail-to-tail formations .
Nesting Cover: Chukar nests are depressions scratched in the ground and
lined with leaves and feathers, usually well camouflaged under shrubs or
among rocks [3,4].
FOOD HABITS :
During the breeding season, chukars feed in pairs. For the rest of the
year feeding occurs in coveys, usually en route to watering areas .
Coveys are usually about 20 birds; infrequently as many as 40 or more
birds will form a covey . Foraging occurs in early morning and late
In summer and fall the bulk of chukar diets is composed of cheatgrass
seeds [4,15]. Seeds of Russian-thistle (Salsola spp.), rough fiddleneck
(Amsinckia retrorsa), cutleaf filaree (Erodium cicutarium), Indian
ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides), curly dock (Rumex crispus), wild onion
(Allium spp.) and mustards (Brassica spp.) are also consumed [4,7].
After autumn rains cause grasses to green up, chukars consume large
amounts of grass blades and basal shoots [3,24]; and the bulbs, stems,
leaves, and buds of a variety of plants including dandelion (Taraxacum
officinale), woodlandstar (Lithophragma spp.), and shepherd's purse
(Capsella bursa-pastoris) [4,8]. Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) and
hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) fruits are consumed during summer. A variety
of forb and shrub seeds or fruits are consumed during the winter .
Additional items reported for chukar diets in New Mexico include early
spring greens, alfalfa (Medicago spp.) leaves, seeds of Johnsongrass
(Sorghum halepense), grama (Bouteloua spp.), and other mountain grasses,
and skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata) fruits . Chukars do not utilize
legume seeds to any great degree, but do consume leaves of alfalfa,
clover (Trifolium spp.), and sweetclover (Melilotus spp.) . The diet
of young chukars includes a high proportion of insects; adult birds may
consume as much as 15 percent by volume. Animal foods consist primarily
of grasshoppers, caterpillars, crickets, ants, and various insect eggs
For healthy chukar populations in areas with adequate cover, losses to
predators are probably not significant. In most areas, rodents,
cottontails (Silvilagus spp.), hares (Lagopus spp.), and small birds
outnumber chukars and thus receive higher predator pressure than chukars
Nest Predators: Known predators of chukar nests include magpie (Pica
pica), ravens (Corvus spp.), and various ground predators including
gopher snake (Pituophis spp.) .
Predators of adult chukars may include coyote (Canis latrans), bobcat
(Lynx rufus), feral house cat (Felis spp.), gray fox (Urocyon
cinereoargenteus), skunks (Conepatus spp. and Mephites spp.), badger
(Taxidea taxus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), rock squirrel (Spermophilus
variegatus), ringtail (Bassiriscus astutus), mountain lion (Felis
concolor), coati (Nasua nasua), Mexican wolf (Canis lycaon), snakes,
golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), broad-winged hawk (Buteo platypterus),
prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus), sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter
striatus), Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii), great horned owl (Bubo
virginianus), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), northern goshawk
(Accipiter gentilis), Mexican goshawk (Asturina plagiata), zone-tailed
hawk (Buteo albonotatus), aplomodo falcon (Falco femoralis), and ravens
(Corvus spp.) .
The chukar is a popular game bird: A harvest of over 600,000 birds in
one hunting season was estimated for the United States in a 1981
MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Chukar density is difficult to assess. Density has been estimated to
range from one bird per 22.9 acres (9.2 ha) to one bird in just over 10
acres (4 ha). In favorable habitat densities of more than one bird per 10
acres may occur. Watering sites may attract up to 100 birds at a time
Recommended habitat for chukar introduction includes areas where up to
half the surface area consists of talus slopes, rocky outcrops, cliffs,
or bluffs. The remainder of the area should be occupied by sagebrush
and grass, particularly cheatgrass, perennial wheatgrasses (Agroypron
spp. and Pseudoroegneria spicata), and bluegrasses (Poa spp.). A water
source is a required habitat element: Chukar populations tend to
concentrate near water in hot weather and disperse when vegetation
greens up after rain . Where cheatgrass is the dominant herb, chukar
habitat can be improved by water development . Leopold 
recommended predator control immediately after release; once birds are
dispersed no predator control is necessary.
The spread of medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae) into cheatgrass
ranges has raised concern over its effect on chukars. Feeding trials
established that chukars eat medusahead caryopses if nothing else is
offered, but that a sole diet of medusahead caryopses is debilitating
and probably fatal. Germinated medusahead seeds and cheatgrass seeds
were preferred over feed pellets .
FIRE EFFECTS AND USE
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Alectoris chukar
DIRECT FIRE EFFECTS ON ANIMALS :
Cheatgrass is usually dry and potentially flammable by June; it is
conceivable that nest loss and loss of young chicks could result from a
fire. Cheatgrass fires are usually fast, with a low flame. The area of
intense heat is restricted to the fire front. The ground cools rapidly
after the front passes . Range fires occurring in the spring-summer
nesting season reportedly destroyed nests, young, and adults in
Washington . Christensen , however, stated that he had yet to
hear of an authenticated case where chukars capable of flight suffered a
loss due to a cheatgrass fire. It is unlikely that there would be
significant direct mortality from fire. In Nevada, a range fire that
occurred on August 28th, 1951 burned over approximately 35,000 acres of
chukar habitat. A survey made 8 days after the fire failed to find any
dead birds, although over 2,000 chukars were observed in the burned area
. Other gallinaceous birds are attracted to fire and fresh burns
due to the abundance of seeds and dead insects, and chukars probably
behave in a similar manner .
HABITAT RELATED FIRE EFFECTS :
Chukars inhabit deteriorated sagebrush-grasslands, saltbush-grasslands,
or deserts, mainly where cheatgrass is the dominant herb. Any habitat
modification that favors cheatgrass probably favors chukar populations,
given adequate water source and brushy and rocky cover. Cheatgrass
increases with fire, drought, overgrazing, and other disturbances .
Cheatgrass creates a fine, continuous fuel load which increases a
region's susceptibility to fire. Fires occur earlier in the growing
season and with greater frequency than in noncheatgrass areas, thus
accelerating range degradation and maintaining cheatgrass .
FIRE USE :
Prescribed fires could be used to favor cheatgrass in chukar habitat;
however, it is not recommended practice since fires and the resulting
cheatgrass dominance are accompanied by site degradation .
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
References for species: Alectoris chukar
1. American Ornithologists' Union. 1983. Checklist of North American birds. 6th ed. Lawrence, KS: Allen Press, Inc. 877 p. 
2. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. 
3. Bohl, Wayne H. 1957. Chukars in New Mexico: 1931-1957. Bulletin No. 6. Santa Fe, NM: New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. 68 p. 
4. DeGraaf, Richard M.; Scott, Virgil E.; Hamre, R. H.; [and others]. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. Agric. Handb. 688. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 625 p. 
5. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. 
6. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. 
7. Johnsgard, Paul A. 1973. Grouse and quails of North America. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 553 p. 
8. Johnsgard, Paul A. 1975. North American game birds of upland and shoreline. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 183 p. 
9. Anon. 1930. Indiana's veteran sycamore. American Forests. 36: 510. 
10. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. 
11. Leopold, A. Starker. 1954. The predator in wildlife management. Sierra Club Bulletin. 39(6): 34-38. 
12. Leopold, A. Starker; Gutierrez, Ralph J.; Bronson, Michael T. 1981. North American game birds and mammals. New York: Charles Scribner & Sons. 198 p. 
13. Mackie, Richard J.; Buechner, Helmut K. 1963. The reproductive cycle of the chukar. Journal of Wildlife Management. 27(2): 246-260. 
14. Morrison, Michael L.; Block, William M.; Verner, Jared. 1991. Wildlife-habitat relationships in California's oak woodlands: Where do we go from here? In: Standiford, Richard B., technical coordinator. Proceedings of the symposium on oak woodlands and hardwood rangeland management; 1990 October 31 - November 2; Davis, CA. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-126. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: 105-109. 
15. Savage, David E.; Young, James A.; Evans, Raymond A. 1969. Utilization of medusahead and downy brome caryopses by chukar patridge. Journal of Wildlife Management. 33(4): 975-978. 
16. Sibley, Charles G.; Monroe, Burt L., Jr. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of the birds of the world. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 1111 p. 
17. Stokes, Allen W. 1961. Voice and social behavior of the chukar partridge. The Condor. 63: 111-127. 
18. Terres, John K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1109 p. 
19. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. 
20. West, Neil E. 1983. Intermountain salt-desert shrubland. In: West, Neil E., ed. Temperate deserts and semi-deserts. Amsterdam; Oxford; New York: Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company; 1983: 375-397. (Goodall, David W., ed. in chief.; Ecosystems of the world; vol. 5). 
21. West, Neil E. 1988. Intermountain deserts, shrub steppes, and woodlands. In: Barbour, Michael G.; Billings, William Dwight, eds. North American terrestrial vegetation. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press: 209-230. 
22. Jones, J. Knox, Jr.; Hoffmann, Robert S.; Rice, Dale W.; [and others]. 1992. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 1991. Occasional Papers No. 146. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University, The Museum. 6 p. 
23. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 501 p. 
24. Christensen, Glen C. 1970. The chukar partridge Its introduction, life history, and management. Biological Bulletin No. 4. Reno: Nevada Department of Fish and Game. 82 p.