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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*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.