Antelope Island Chukars – From Chicks to Adults

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Resting Chukar chickResting Chukar chick

Antelope Island Chukars are a species of introduced upland game birds that came from Eurasia that have become well established on the island because the habitat is similar to where they originally were from. Antelope Island Chukars can be found reliably throughout the year and quite often you will hear them before you see them.

Birders and bird photographers from out of state flock to the island hoping to see and photograph these upland game birds. Birders might want to tick them off their lists and bird photographers hope to get images of these wild, chicken like birds. I have had friends visit Utah that just “have to see” Chukars!

I have an extensive Chukar portfolio after spending so much time on the island and thought I’d share some of the photos.

This first image of a resting Chukar chick was taken in June of 2012. An adult was nearby and there were several of the tiny chicks foraging right next to the road. It is easy to see how their cryptic juvenal plumage helps them blend right into their habitat for protection.

Hidden immature ChukarHidden immature Chukar

This immature Chukar photo also illustrates how well the plumage of immature Chukars helps to keep them hidden from predators of the sky and the ground. I would estimate that this chukar is approximately 7 to 8 weeks old because of the changes in the plumage compared to the small chick. The crown is smooth, not downy, the ear patch shows a tawny color and the first dark spots have developed on the neck that will later become a black necklace.  This image was taken in August of 2015.

The Great Salt Lake and juvenile ChukarThe Great Salt Lake and juvenile Chukar

Chukars can be found practically any where on the island but I still think it is unique to find them on the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake which is unique in itself. This juvenile chukar appears to be a bit younger than the one in the image above because there are no signs of the dark spots on its neck. This image was taken in June of 2012 and was likely from a successful first brood.

There is a large size difference when comparing this juvenile with the chick in the first image which was taken just two days before this image was taken. The younger chick was likely the result of a second brood. The first brood of the chukars of the younger chick may not have been successful and they may have had another brood.

Molting juvenile ChukarMolting juvenile Chukar

This juvenile chukar is about 10 weeks old, in a post juvenal plumage phase and has started to show signs of the anterior flank bars.  By the time this juvenile was 18 weeks old it will have completed its molt into its Basic I plumage and look very much like the adult except for two juvenal primary feathers. This photo was taken in September of 2011.

Adult Chukar showing feather damageAdult Chukar showing feather damage

Now this adult is not molting, it is showing feather damage from a possible attack of some sort. The attack may have been from another chukar fighting for breeding rights, it may have escaped from a coyote that tried to take it as prey or perhaps even from a Golden Eagle. But a “normal” adult chukar molt would not look like this at all, worn feathers on adults are replaced gradually.  Photo taken in June of 2013.

March Chukar portraitMarch Chukar portrait

This portrait of a Chukar adult was taken in March of 2015 which is about the time the males start fighting when other males enter their breeding territory. Those “fights” can be intense. During that time of the year it isn’t uncommon to see some of the males with a few feathers missing because of the territorial aggression.

One of my first Chukar imagesOne of my first Chukar images

The first time I saw Chukars on Antelope Island before I moved here was on a trip to Utah and I was one of those bird photographers that just “had to photograph a Chukar”.  They seemed so exotic to me even though I was visiting from Florida where there are tons of birds Utahns would find exotic. I was dancing inside myself when I took this image.

Antelope Island Chukar adultAntelope Island Chukar adult

And even now I dance inside myself while photographing Antelope Island Chukars. This photo of an adult Chukar was taken a few weeks ago on the island.

They are handsome upland game birds and I love that black necklace next to their creamy throats, the red orbital rings, bill and legs along with the boldly striped flanks and their soft looking grayish brown to buffy body plumage.

And I love to hear them calling from the rocks.

Chukar calling from a hilltopChukar calling from a hilltop

Antelope Island Chukars don’t just attract out of town visitors to the island, they still call in locals like myself to see, hear and photograph them.

Life is good.

Mia

*There was a problem earlier today when people tried to comment and got an error message saying “Error invalid email address” that was caused by a WordPress plugin. I have fixed that now.

Sorry for not including my techs, there were too many images.

8 Comments

  1. Humming bird lover March 30, 2016 at 8:13 am

    Hi! Those baby’s remind me of Pheasant and Quail baby’s from Michigan! Never see babies here in Va. Thanks for sharing! Have a great day! love mom

  2. Bob McPherson March 30, 2016 at 5:45 am

    Absolutely gorgeous photos, Mia. Love your commentary also.

  3. Elephant's Child March 29, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    You and Ron introduced me to Chukars – for which I am grateful. Very grateful.

  4. Chris Rohrer March 29, 2016 at 11:19 am

    I love these birds!! Chukars are awesome! So now that my lens is heavy and big, I see the challenges….actually….feel them more than see them:) But look at the shots we get with the camera lens. The chicks are soooo cute! Hope all is well friend!

  5. Robert Draper March 29, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Nice series of nice photos. For someone who doesn’t have a chuckar on my list, these are wonderful to see. Thanks, Mia

  6. Patty Chadwick March 29, 2016 at 10:07 am

    A wonderful series…especially interesting and valuable to those of us unable tobsee this progression for ourselves…the only thing missing is the egg (And the “dinger”)..,

    • Mia McPherson March 29, 2016 at 10:59 am

      I’m laughing Patty, I finally got the oil change light and the dinger reset! Oh what a nutty morning. Thanks for your comment!

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