Alectoris chukar Order: Galliformes Family: Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
Alectoris chukar Order: Galliformes Family: Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

This pretty little gallinaceous bird, the national bird of Pakistan and Iraq, feeds on the ground, on bulbous roots, the grain and shoots of grasses and cereals, berries, and insects (including their eggs). A mated pair and their offspring form a covey, but sometimes two or more family groups may form a larger covey—this happens most often at watering areas. During the nesting season, pairs become fairly territorial.

Chukars are native to mountainous areas from eastern Greece and southeastern Bulgaria through Asia Minor, Near and Middle East, Iran, and north through Turkmenistan and southern Kazakhstan; then east through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern India; south in Himalayas through Nepal; then north through Tibet, Sinkiang Uighur, and Mongolia and east to Manchuria, China. They’ve been introduced to New Zealand, several Hawaiian Islands, and also St. Helena Island in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

Chukars were introduced to North America in 1893, when five pairs were shipped to Illinois from Karachi, India (now Pakistan). Between 1931 and 1970, 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. They’re well established and heavily hunted in the West; as an introduced species, bag limits can be set very high.

Chukars that appear in the Midwest and eastern states are usually escaped from game farms, retriever training clubs, and other captive situations. Although these birds are usually doomed, some may survive and, if they can find others, may establish small breeding populations. Outside their western range, they aren’t likely to survive many years, but are worth keeping track of.

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