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. The behavior of the Chukars indicates that the males are already acting territorial and fighting for the right to mate.

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 in the grasses

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 on Antelope Island

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 sparring for mating rights

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 fightingMale Chukars fighting for breeding rights

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 fightingMale Chukars sparring

It didn’t take long for the dominant male to kick the other male to the dirt. He also has some of the loser’s 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.