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  ScienceZoologyBirdsOrder Galliformes

Alectoris chukar


This medium-sized partridge is 13-15 inches long and weighs 18-24 ounces, with males being larger than females.

The most distinctive features of the chukar are the vivid black and white stripes that decorate the wings and the black band that runs across the eyes and down the neck. The upper body and head feathers 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 color. Both sexes are colored similarly, but juveniles are mottled brown and gray, with only slight brown barring on flanks. In its native habitat, coloring can vary geographically, with birds in more arid areas tending to be grayer and paler.

There are 14 recognized subspecies of chukar, separated primarily by geography and identifiable by differences in plumage, with those inhabiting more humid areas being darker and more olive in color, while those in more arid areas are a paler grey or yellow.

Distribution and Habitat

The chukar is native to the mountainous areas of the Middle East and Africa, from eastern Greece and southeastern Bulgaria through Asia Minor east to Manchuria, but has been introduced into North America, Hawaii, New Zealand, and parts of Europe.

The Great Basin area of the western United States (Nevada, western Utah, southwestern Idaho, northeastern California, and southeastern Oregon) is representative of the chukar's preferred habitat. The climate is arid to semiarid, water is generally available from scattered sources, and temperature varies. It lives primarily on rocky, arid hillsides and mountain slopes and canyon walls, but is also found in open and flat desert areas with little vegetation and on barren plateaus. It is an altitudinal migrator and will move from higher elevations to lower elevations during snowy weather. While it will occasionally feed in cultivated fields, it tends to stay away from disturbed areas.


Chukars are monogamous during the breeding season. Pairs form in mid-March, after the male has engaged in a courtship display that involves head tilting and the showing of his barred flanks. After pairing, both sexes call to each other and peck at various objects. During drought seasons, when food is scarce, breeding may be restricted to a few birds. Males guard the female from access by other males.

The nest is a simple scrape, sometimes lined with grass or feathers, in rocky or brushy areas. The 7-21 eggs are incubated solely by the female for 24 days. Chicks are capable of flight within a few weeks, and reach adult size in about 12 weeks. Males are thought to remain until the chicks are reared, but some are reported to leave after clutch completion and regroup with other males.


Chukars are generally opportunistic and forage on a variety of vegetation, including grass and forb seeds, green grass, forb leaves, and some shrub fruits, according to relative abundance and seasonal availability. Young chicks also feed on a variety of insects, while adults tend to only go for locusts, when available. All types of water sources are utilized by chukars and tend to dictate distribution during the hot summer months; they will stray farther from water in the winter when green vegetation is available.

Other Behaviors

Chukars are diurnal, spending their mornings and afternoons foraging on the ground.

Although it is a strong and fast flier over short distances, the chukar prefers walking and running to flight. It hops when crossing rough terrain.

The primary social group is a covey of adults and their offspring, and the largest groups (usually no more than 40 birds) are found at water sources.

Chukars use a number or vocalizations in interactions, but the most common call is a low chuck, chuck, chuck used by both sexes that changes gradually to a chukar chukar and can be heard from long distances, hence the name chukar.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Galliformes
family Phasianidae
genus & species Alectoris chukar

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  The Robinson Library > Science > Zoology > Birds > Order Galliformes

This page was last updated on February 20, 2015.

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