Chukars & Agonistic Behavior

More signs of spring…. There is a storm coming in soon that might bring snow to the valley but I don’t think the Chukars on Antelope Island care about that one bit. Their behavior indicates that the males are already acting territorial.
Chukar with the Wasatch Range in the backgroundChukar with the Wasatch Range in the background – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 640, +1.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Looking at the Chukar (Alectoris chukar) above one wouldn’t think that they are aggressive. They seem fairly docile foraging for seeds in the grasses or perched on a rock calling. But during breeding season they can be fierce, aggressive and downright mean.

I am not happy with the quality of the images below because there was just too much vegetation in the way to get clear views of the fighting but despite that I wanted to share them. Hopefully I will get another ring-side seat one day soon where I can get great views of the sparring match.
Chukars fightingChukars fighting

We came upon these Chukars after the battle had already started, in this image you can see two males in the center having a go at it. The bird in the right hand side of the middle has the other birds throat feathers in its bill and is tugging on them. It may have the skin of the bird in its bill too. The other two birds just seemed to observe the fighting.
Chukars fightingChukars fighting

In this image one of the males has pinned the other down on the ground. I sure wish all the grasses hadn’t been in the way.
Chukars fightingChukars fighting

This image shows the winner of the round standing more erect than the loser, the loser is looking at the other bird with its bill slightly open.
Chukars fightingChukars fighting

The two birds that were watching the fighting may be females, the males usually do not just defend the nesting territory, they also chase intruding males away from them. These three birds were on the closer side of the rabbitbrush and another birds can just be barely made out on the other side of it.
Chukars fightingChukars fighting

It didn’t take long for the dominant male to kick the other male to the dirt. He also has some of the losers feathers in his bill.

I’d love to spend more time with sparring Chukars, hopefully out in the open where I can get sharper images with far fewer distracting elements but I am still thrilled to have seen and photographed this action today.


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Pingback: Spring Chukar on Antelope Island

  2. Wonderful actions shots Mia, I had no idea that Chukars would fight so viciously, very interesting pictures, way to go.

  3. Great action photos! I don’t think I want to cross one of these Chukers!

  4. Mia, once again very nice series. +1 :)

  5. Interesting behavioral sequence, despite the vegetation Mia.

  6. These are beautiful photos Mia, Chuckars have such great colors!

  7. Yikes! Good thing they eventually worked it out. Boys will be boys
    Fabulous shots Mia

  8. Great images, Mia. You can’t help but admire their beauty. :-)

  9. Mia, another way to look at these images is from a fiction/movie point of view. You know how what you can’t see sometimes inspires even greater terror in the imagination. I rather like the obscured portions of the photos. It suggests a suppression of the other bird that does affect you viscerally, and, again, leaves the imagination to fill in the blanks.

    • Ingrid, thanks for sharing your perspective on these images, I hadn’t quite thought about it that way. Yes, these images do leave room for imagination!

  10. Wonderful post Mia

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