Fire Effects Information System (FEIS)
FEIS Home Page

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: [].

ABBREVIATION : ALCH COMMON NAMES : chukar chukar partridge Indian hill partridge rock partridge TAXONOMY : 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. chukar [7]. All information in this write-up refers to North American populations. ORDER : Galliformes CLASS : Bird FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


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]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES28 Western hardwoods FRES29 Sagebrush FRES30 Desert shrub FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub FRES35 Pinyon-juniper STATES :


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 : NO-ENTRY 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 [15]. The chukar inhabits sagebrush (Artemisia spp.)-grasslands, and areas vegetated with ephedra (Ephedra spp.), bitterbrush (Purshia spp.), currant (Ribes spp.), and rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus spp.) [4]. In the southern portion of its range, the chukar may be found in saltbush (Atriplex spp.)-grasslands [4], and salt-desert shrubland [20]. Chukars generally avoid climax pinyon (Pinus spp.)-juniper (Juniperus spp.) habitat [4], although scattered pinyons and junipers appear to be acceptable [3]. REFERENCES : NO-ENTRY


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 [3]. 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 [3]. Males appear to defend females rather than territory [9]; this finding is in dispute, however [17]. 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 [24]. Clutch: Eggs are laid at a rate of one per day to one per 2 days [8]. Clutch size ranges from 10 to 20 eggs, with an average of 15 [12]. Clutch size is greatly reduced in drought years; in extreme drought, breeding may not occur at all [3]. Double brooding (production of two consecutive broods in one season) was reported from captive birds, and is suspected to occur in wild birds [13]. Renesting following clutch loss is normal [9]. 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 [24], 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 [3]. 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 [4]. Steep slopes appear to be preferred [12]. Slope grade is usually over 7 percent with a rise of at least 200 feet (60 m) [7]. 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 [3]. COVER REQUIREMENTS : Chukars use rocky slopes for shade and escape cover. The hottest part of the day is usually spent in shady cover [9]. 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 [4]. Bohl [3] 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 [3]. 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 [3]. Coveys are usually about 20 birds; infrequently as many as 40 or more birds will form a covey [8]. Foraging occurs in early morning and late afternoon [9]. 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 [7]. 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 [3]. Chukars do not utilize legume seeds to any great degree, but do consume leaves of alfalfa, clover (Trifolium spp.), and sweetclover (Melilotus spp.) [7]. 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 [3,8,9]. PREDATORS : 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 [3]. Nest Predators: Known predators of chukar nests include magpie (Pica pica), ravens (Corvus spp.), and various ground predators including gopher snake (Pituophis spp.) [24]. 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.) [3]. 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 publication [12]. 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 [7]. 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 [3]. Where cheatgrass is the dominant herb, chukar habitat can be improved by water development [23]. Leopold [11] 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 [15]. REFERENCES : NO-ENTRY


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 [24]. Range fires occurring in the spring-summer nesting season reportedly destroyed nests, young, and adults in Washington [3]. Christensen [24], 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 [24]. 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 [23]. 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 [23]. 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 [21]. 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 [23]. 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 : NO-ENTRY

References for species: Alectoris chukar

1. American Ornithologists' Union. 1983. Checklist of North American birds. 6th ed. Lawrence, KS: Allen Press, Inc. 877 p. [21234]
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. [434]
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. [22755]
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. [15856]
5. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]
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. [998]
7. Johnsgard, Paul A. 1973. Grouse and quails of North America. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 553 p. [20323]
8. Johnsgard, Paul A. 1975. North American game birds of upland and shoreline. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 183 p. [22817]
9. Anon. 1930. Indiana's veteran sycamore. American Forests. 36: 510. [22816]
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. [1384]
11. Leopold, A. Starker. 1954. The predator in wildlife management. Sierra Club Bulletin. 39(6): 34-38. [29579]
12. Leopold, A. Starker; Gutierrez, Ralph J.; Bronson, Michael T. 1981. North American game birds and mammals. New York: Charles Scribner & Sons. 198 p. [22815]
13. Mackie, Richard J.; Buechner, Helmut K. 1963. The reproductive cycle of the chukar. Journal of Wildlife Management. 27(2): 246-260. [22958]
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. [18897]
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. [2067]
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. [22814]
17. Stokes, Allen W. 1961. Voice and social behavior of the chukar partridge. The Condor. 63: 111-127. [29791]
18. Terres, John K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1109 p. [16195]
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. [11573]
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). [2507]
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. [19546]
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. [22160]
23. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 501 p. [2620]
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. [22813]

FEIS Home Page