The Chukar: A favorable introduction

by Dave Hanks

This national bird of PAKISTAN can, also, be found in the Mediterranean Islands, Turkey, Iran, Eastern Russia, China, Nepal, and now the United States. Most introductions to the USA have been detrimental, but not this bird. It has become established in the rocky grasslands and canyons of the western USA.

The Chukar’s name resembles its call – a rapid series of “chuck – chuck – chuck – chuck” and a shrill “whitoo” when alarmed. This partridge is a plump 14 inches long, has a white face that is encircled with a black ring that runs through the eyes and down to its throat, light grayish-brown back, buff belly, and Rufous streaking on its sides. It is a striking, multicolored bird that leaves no question as to its identity.

I have had acquaintances tell me that it was their favorite upland game bird to hunt. The Chukar is not only fun to hunt, but is good eating – even considered of gourmet quality. These characteristics have prompted the breeding of this species on game bird farms, thereby keeping a viable wild population. It is very easy to keep and breed in captivity.

Whenever you find yourself in the rocky canyons of Nevada, Utah, or South-West Idaho, look for this bird.

chukarp

A member of the pheasant family

Take Time to Listen and Look for the Quiet Things

There is a tiny “jewel of a bird” that is called the RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET. It is very common. The only problem is that it is seldom observed. It’s not a species that is very noticeable. You have to be aware of it and open your senses to realize that it is close and observable. LISTEN for a loud and varied song. It starts with 2 to 3 high pitched “tsees”, followed by 5 to 6 lower “turs”, and ending with”tee-de-lett”. LOOK for a dull, olive-green bird that’s only slightly bigger than a hummingbird – one of the smallest in America. It has noticeable white eye rings and white wing bars.

The red crown is not usually visible, except when the male is courting. Nesting occurs in a hanging cup, suspended from a conifer branch. The female lays a large clutch of eggs (5 to 11) that might weigh as much as she does.

This insectivore favors coniferous woodlands where it forages for food among the leaves of woody plants. It’s a very active species that flicks its tail and moves through trees faster than one can focus a camera on it. Sapsuckers (a type of woodpecker) peck out sap wells in tree trunks. The sweet, oozing sap is highly favored by this bird.

We were in luck one day in Reno, Nevada’s Oxbow Nature Study Area. We noticed kinglets coming to a bush just before dropping down to drink at a pond. Carolyn rushed and brought me a chair. By sitting patiently, this photo was obtained. The birds didn’t seem to mind our presence.

The quiet things are all around
	But you don’t notice, there’s so little sound
So when you’re about ‘moungst shrubs or wings
	Take time to listen and look for the quiet things!
Regulus calendula

Regulus calendula

Wild Burros: Masters of Adaptation and Survival

As Carolyn and I crossed some of the most desolate country in north-western Nevada, what should come into our view but a most interesting equine – Wild Burros. The habitat around us looked very inhospitable – especially for a large mammal. What do these beasts find to eat? My research indicated that burros can eat almost any type of vegetation, and they can survive desert living as long as there is water within ten miles of their foraging movements. Extremely resilient to drought, they can lose up to 30% of their body weight in water loss without ill effects. Humans that lose 10% of their water weight require hospitalization.

Wild Burros originated in northern Africa. There are two basic types: Nubian and Somalian. The Nubian has a stripe down the center of its back. The other, the Somalian has stripes on its legs. Both may measure 5 feet at the shoulder and the heavy hair covering the inside of the ears gives protection from blowing sand or dust.

The Spaniards introduced burros to North America and it is estimated that there are now about 20,000 running wild. They can be damaging to our western rangelands and must be culled yearly. This is a common problem with introduced species. Almost all introduced species are harmful to native life-forms. In addition, burros have no natural predators and so most young reach adulthood. This, combined with a 25 year life cycle, presents a serious population problem.

These burros didn’t seem concerned with us in the least. They were content to allow us to come close to observe them. In turn, they just stood and observed us.

A mother burro and her mostly grown offspring give us the eye

A mother and her mostly grown offspring give us the eye