A Chukar in a sage bush?!! Well maybe not so much in, as foraging skittishly beneath. The soft sandy colours, streaked noir flank, bright red eye and beak; emphasized by a vibrant band of black across its face circling down the neck like a pair of mysterious shades, compliment the stealth qualities this mid-sized Partridge possesses. Yes, the Chukar is a Partridge not a Quail as it can commonly be mistaken, although it is of the same Family.
Chukars for me are an iconic bird of Kamloops, though not native to our lovely arid climate. Instead they were introduced in the late 1890’s around the Baja, Colorado and Southern areas of British Columbia. Kamloopsians can seek them out amongst Tranquille’s many distinguished rock formations and terrain; gleaning seeds and grasses in Batchelor Heights’ crevasses and trails; while some golfers may be interrupted by a covey of Chukars pitter pattering across the greens at Sun Rivers and in the surrounding area.
Ironically, their love of higher elevation desert climates and rocky perches carries a setback. Water is crucial to this terrestrial Avian. With a need to rehydrate twice a day, they seek out water in many forms including: from succulents, rainfall catch basins, ground seeps and in some areas they have been documented to travel down mineshafts to quench their thirst in the waters trickling through the tunnel walls.
That is where their use for water ends. Unlike others birds we see gleefully splashing in a puddle or bird bath, Chukars prefer to take a dirt bath! They create a slight depression in the ground and then plop their rotund little bodies down. After scratching to loosen the dust, they use their stout rounded wings to toss it onto their backs. Next, they shamelessly get their shimmy and shake on! This helps to evenly distribute the dust over their feathers. Believe it or not, this daily routine aids in sustaining a balanced level of oil on the plumage, which in turn assists in the overall wellbeing of the bird.
Since becoming established as a non-invasive species from Eurasia, they have been highly sought and hunted for their meat and mounting presentation. But to catch a Chukar is not so easy. Though they are flight capable, Chukars prefer to masterfully outrun their pursuant by swiftly maneuvering uphill through their habitually difficult terrain. This cunning ability has led them to be dubbed the devil bird.
That opinion is not shared in their native lands like Pakistan and Iran where the Chukar is the national bird. In Pakistani culture and North Indian Mythology the Chukar can symbolize fierce and sometimes unrequited love. It is born from the notion of the bird’s love affliction with the moon as it is often found gazing in longing, or so the story goes. Chukars are monogamous in nature, waltzing to win over a hen’s affection. Nests are small hollows in the ground lined with grasses. Broods range anywhere from 8-14 in size and are Precocial when hatched.
You get to look that up yourself ;)
Stay Curious Kamloops!
Bird tidbit: Feet of strength plays a role in what behaviour or method is observed in a bird’s bathing routine. Example, birds that spend the majority of time in flight are considered to have weaker feet and are commonly observed diving and dipping into water, using their tail to flip water in the air.