Thursday, May 3, 2012

CHUKAR BIRD (National Bird of Pakistan)

The Chukar is the National bird of Pakistan. Chukar (Alectoris chukar) is a Eurasian upland game bird in the pheasant family Phasianidae. The Chukar  partridge is a small chicken-like bird and it is very easy to keep and breed in captivity.

The most distinguishing features of Chukar are the vivid black and white stripes that decorate the wings and the black band that runs across the eyes, resembling a blindfold, down neck and onto chest. The face is white with a black gorge, and the beak is short, strong, and orange in colour.Throat white. Bill and legs red. Short, rounded wings.The upper body and head feathers of the chukar are brown, becoming more bluish-grey towards the lower body and tail. It has short neck and tail and Grayish brown back and chest. Buffy belly. Bold black and chestnut barring on flanks. The tail has 14 feathers, the third primary is the longest while the first is level with the fifth and sixth primaries. Chukars inhabiting more humid areas tend to be darker and more olive in colour, while those in more arid areas are a paler grey or yellow.

The Chukar is a rotund 32–35 cm (13–14 in) long partridge, with a light brown back, grey breast, and buff belly. Sexes are similar, the female slightly smaller in size and lacking the spur. Chukar chicks have cream and brown down with pale undersides.

The Chukor is a very noisy bird and  repeated constantly in a sharp, clear tone. This tone can be heard for a mile or more through the pure mountain air. The call is frequent during the day especially in the mornings and evenings.The  calls of the Chukar  are numerous and variable.

The commonest call of Chukar is a "Rallying call" which it is when disturbed. It prefers to run rather than fly, but if necessary it flies a short distance often down a slope on rounded wings, calling immediately after alighting. At low intensities the call is chuck, chuck, chuck,given slowly and with definite breaks between each call.As the intensity of the calling rises, it changes to  perchuck, per-chuck with accent on the second syllable, andit is given at faster tempo. This in turn gives way to chukar-chukar-chukar with accent on the first syllable.Chukars seem to prefer to use this call from the vantage point of a rock where they have a good view of the surroundings. The throaty chucking is very resonant and indicated that the rally call was audible for 300 yards or over under favorable conditions. The rally call is heard primarily during the early morning and evening hours, although it is used infrequently throughout the day. Both sexes use this call, but  during the nesting season it appears to be used more bmales. during the breeding season the primary function of the rally call is to space males rather than to attract a mate and thacalling at dawn and dusk serves as a deterrent to regulate overall population density. During the summer, fall and winter when the birds travel in coveys, and when covey is broken up, the rally call is a primary method used for locating one another.The rally  call is an indicator of strongest dominance and aggression.

The Ground alarm call is when the birds separate in long, curving downhill flights. As they burst from the ground the first call is aloud piercing squeal, followed by a series of  whitoo whitoo calls gradually subsiding as the birds disappear out of range.This calls is most commonly heard in the field.

Hawk-alarm  note is when  a  large  bird  flying  overhead generally  elicits  a short, guttural  kerrrr.  It  is evenly  pitched and  given  with  little  mouth  movement,  but it  is audible  for perhaps 100 feet. If  the disturbance is not too close, the bird will  crouch on  the spot and  turn  its head sideways to get the best possible view.  The  call  may  be repeated several times by  the first  bird  to  see the disturbance  and  also by  other birds in  the pen  even though they  cannot  see the  danger. More  sudden or  closer sources of danger sometimes send the entire  flock of  Chukars  flying  or running  hastily  to cover: When  first placed in  new surroundings, the birds were alarmed at many  disturbances. Later  the birds might  give a single errrrk  with  scarcely a  break  in  their  activity.

On-guard call is a low-pitched, undulating  kwerr given when a hawk continues soaring overhead. The  birds give it while frozen and looking up at the hawk either from  cover or  out  in  the  open. It  may  be  given  intermittently  for  several minutes  or until  the hawk has disappeared.

Steam-engine call is when a male in breeding season may give a harsh chak-chak-chak call, sometimes lasting for five minutes on end; at other times, just a few isolated calls may be given.”The  steam-engine call  comes with  high intensity  conflict between  aggression and  escape where the  calling  bird  is somewhat subordinate  to the rival.

AU’s  well’ call is when a loafing  or  feeding  bird  will  at  times  give  a  soft  plaintive coo-OOY, rising  in  pitch  on the second syllable.  Birds give this call when there is no apparent strife  or tension from  outside sources. The  call  frequently  signifies the end of a period of alarm  from the air. This is the call  of  a paired  male given  while  standing  at  ease. It  only  from  males in  the breeding season.

Waltzing  call is in  between waltzing  bouts while  the male  is standing  laterally  to the male  or female  in  tense, erect position, he will  often  give a  call  of  several seconds duration much like  the aerial alarm call. It  is ermk,  the latter  being shorter in  length. The  waltzing  call is given by  a bird  that  is somewhat dominant,  especially over a female due to the conflict probably  between aggression, escape, and sexual tendencies.

Submissive squeal is when a bird  being chased or suddenly attacked may  give a rasping squeal lasting one or two seconds with  bill  held wide open. Chukar squeals when are it chased by another  aggressive  Chukar
during  his attempts to copulate.  Submissive cocks also squealed when being dominated by  a cock. If  a bird was actually  grabbed by the nape, it  was likely  to continue  squealing until  it  had broken  loose from the attacking bird. The  merest move in  the direction of the subordinate bird  was often  enough to elicit  a squeal. This  sort of squeal was most common during  the breeding season, a time when aggressiveness between birds was at  a peak. Dominant birds continued  their  attacks during  and  after  squeals without  letup. The squeal is given by distinctly subordinate birds with strong escape tendencies.

Food call is when“Single birds feeding at the hopper or scratching in the litter frequently gave a slow took. This is sharp and emphatic with a clear pause between each note.

Another  group of calls occurs only  in  the breeding season and  seems to function  in bringing  the pair  together for copulation  and orientation  to the nest. I  have designated these as sexual calls.

Tidbitting  call is during  the  tidbitting  display the male utters a rapid tu-tu-tu-twta,  which becomes more rapid  and higher pitched as tidbitting  continues. A  single round of calling  may  last over a minute.  This  call is varied in  pitch  and  is longer and louder. This may  be merely  a difference of intensity.

Pitoo call is which the  male gives in  the presence of the female as a single call  or re- peated every few seconds. At  such times he is relaxed and moving  about  freely,  never in  display. But  typically  the call precedes a bout of tidbitting  or may  be injected among the tidbitting  calls.

Nest-ceremony call is given when Chukar is exploring for nest sites or turning  in  a nest scrape. This call is a soft continuous  rising and falling  erratically in  pitch.  It  is very  similar  to the food call.

Copdation-intention  call is given when a male intends to copulate with  a female . During  this stage male invariably  announces his intention  to copulate with  a  deep-throated rattle,  uh-uh-uh-uh.  when  dominant males were strongly motivated  sexually and give this copulation-intention  call before running up  behind submissive cocks and  grabbing  them.

The  calls given during  Agonistic behavior are thus good indicators of the motivation of the calling birds. During  fall  and  winter  Chukar  Partridges  tolerate  each other and  spend much of their  time  in coveys. Birds roost and  loaf  in  tight  groups, and  even while  feeding they remain  close together. However, with  advent of  spring, intolerance  is. Birds roost and  loaf  in  tight  groups, and  even while  feeding they remain  close together. However,  with  advent  of  spring, intolerance  increases and males may  become strongly aggressive toward others. Aggressiveness in  birds is known  to in- with  increased testosterone output  in spring.The range in behavior  from  attack  at  one extreme and  escape at  the other is known  as agonist.

The  most common display  is the head tilt.  In  this the male tilts  his head away  from the bird  being intimidated.  At  the same time  the aggressive bird  turns sideways to expose his barred flank  feathers to the utmost. These flank  feathers may be brought well  up  over the tightly  folded wings. The  feathers of neck and chin are fluffed out to such an extent that  the neck appears to be half  again as large as that of  a  female  or subdued male.  During  a  head tilt  the male  also stands erect and  stiff. This  low-intensity  display  is almost  a necessary precursor to more intense  displays. A male  may  make  this  threat  toward  a  strange male  on first encounter or toward  other males as a means of forcing a subordinate male away from courting  a female. Once the dominance of a male has been established, the head tilt  proves an  effective deterrent to subordinate males. The dominant  male among my  captive birds, about 30 feet away at the far end of the pen, had only  to cock his head to make the outsider withdraw, even though there was a tight  fence between them. The  head tilt  is the least aggressive of threat  displays and the first  to appear in  the spring.

A more intense form  of  display  occurs when the  aggressive male makes a  half  circle  about  another  bird,  at the same time  holding  his head tilted  toward  the outside of the circle. Circling  is performed by the bird destined to become the dominant one in  a paired encounter. The  dominant  bird  circles if the initial  head dlts fail  o make the second bird  submissive. Where  birds are fairly  evenly matched, mutual  circling may last for  five minutes  before the second bird  escapes or crouches submissively. At  lower intensity,  circling  may  be a slow walk  or a mere step or two.  Circling  is also frequent when a second male is courting  a female. The  aggressive
male uses this display to force the  subordinate  courting  male  away  from  the  hen.  Should the  second male persist in remaining  beside the hen, the aggressive male will  make a series of very rapid half circles between the two  birds.  Like  a well-trained  cow pony,  the  aggressor will  keep cutting the second male  off from  the hen no matter  how fast the other male may  be. When  two males of equal dominance first meet in  early  spring, there will  be mutual head tilting  as the two birds stand several feet apart  in  stiff stance. Later they may run slowly side by  side. An  aggressive bird  will  never  stand  head on  to  another  bird  but always so that  his flank feathers show. There  may  be periods in  which no antagonism is demonstrated between nearly  equal males. But after  half  an hour  the dominance of one is established. Later in the season, as birds become more aggressive, an  encounter seldom lasts more than two minutes before dominance is established.

If  a male  sights another male  intruding on his territory,  he will challenge the intruder  by  running  straight toward him  in  a special manner  found only in  this situation.  In  running,  the back and  tail  are horizontal  and the head straight  in front  but  somewhat lower than the back . On  stopping, the bird  stands up stiffly and gives a head tilt,  turning  sideways as he does SO. After  a few seconds he will  resume his run toward the intruder.  He may make half  a dozen such short spurts before coming close enough to  the  intruder  to  begin more intense displays. On returning  to his mate the male may run  in  the same way.

Chukars have been found roosting on the ground beneath sagebrush, under juniper trees, in the shelter of rock outcrops and in open rocky areas. They do not seek dense cover for roosting.

Dusting plays an important part in the daily life of the chukar. Dusting bowls are frequently seen alongside trails, in the shelter of shrubs and juniper trees, near thebase of rocky outcrops, and particularly around watering sites where the birds seem to enjoy the damp soil. They are oblong-oval depressions in the earth and droppingsand a few feathers are usually found in and around them.

Peeping is done by young birds from the first week until they are nearly adult in size. When a brood of chicks is scattered peeping leads to their reunion. Young chicks will usually freeze for 10 to 15 minutes after being scattered and then peeping will begin. It often takes 30 minutes to an hour or more for a brood to reassemble. The reunion of the brood is directed by the adult bird who emits occasional calls that serve to guide the chicks. The chicks will run or make short flights toward the adult after the call. Peeping is almost continuous until the brood is reunited. If the brood is disturbed while in the process of reuniting, the chicks will again freeze, and the adult bird will give the alarm call if the intruder approaches closely.

The breeding season is summer. In summer, Chukars form pairs to breed. During this time, the cocks are very pugnacious calling and fighting. Males perform tidbitting displays, a form of courtship feeding where the male pecks at food and a female may visit to peck in response. The males may chase females with head lowered, wing lowered and neck fluffed. The male may also performs a high step stiff walk while making a special call.  Once a pair bond forms, a nesting territory is developed in which the male can be fairly aggressive at defending. Males are monogynous.

Once egg laying and incubation is initiated chukar are persistent re-nesters and nesting can occur through July if conditions are favorable. Chukar will re-nest after the initial nest is destroyed or if the brood is lost entirely at an early date; . As the nesting season progresses, the female faces some physiological challenges in producing a large brood when re-nesting because ovary regression is occurring. If the female is able to raise a brood of even one chick, it is felt that re-nesting does not take place.The nest is a scantily lined ground scrape, though occasionally a compact pad is created with a depression in the center. Generally, the nests are sheltered by ferns and small bushes, or placed in a dip or rocky hillside under a overhanging rock

Chukar eggs are uniformaily white yellowish in color with numereous speckles of  brown with varrying sizes andshapes.appearing over most of the the shell. Egg weigh over 16 to 25g and are oblaong in shape and are an averagae of 42 mm long and 32mm wide.Egg shell thickness is about 0.228mm and cell membrance about 0.047 mm. About 7 to 14 eggs are laid. The eggs hatch in about 23–25 days. Chicks grow  quickly and be place outside at about 6 weeks. Chicks join their parents in foraging and will soon join the chicks of other members of the covey.

During the early fall months of September and October, chukar primarily consume the seeds. Chukar will take a wide variety of seeds and some insects as food. It also ingests grit. During winter they descend into the valleys and feed in fields.

Tallus slopes, rocky outcrops, scattered brush and clumps of grass over irregular terrain give the chukar sufficient opportunity to hide without difficulty.Chukars prefer an open, unimpeded view and often they are seen perched upon a prominent rock overlooking their domain. When disturbed their first reaction is to run uphill, which has proven to be a sound method of losing many an ardent hunter, and if the pursuer persists they will flush and then lie,utilizing the available cover to perfection.

This partridge has its native range in Asia, from Israel and Turkey through Afghanistan to India, along the inner ranges of the Western Himalayas to Nepal. habitat in the native range is rocky open hillsides with grass or scattered scrub or cultivation. It is mainly found at an altitude of 2000 to 4000 m except in Pakistan, where it occurs at 600m. They are not found in areas of high humidity or rainfall.

Chukar are sometimes preyed on by Golden Eagles.Chukar as good sport although they were not considered to be particularly good in flavour.  In the non-breeding season, Chukar Partridge are found in small coveys of 10 or more up to 50 birds.