(1972) Alectoris graeca chukar.
Perdix chukar Gray, Hardw. Ill. Ind. Zool., i, pi. 54 (1830-2) (India, Nepal). Caccabis chucar. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 131.
Vernacular names. Chukar (Hind.); Kabk (P.); Kau-kau (Kashmir); Chukru (Chamba); Zarkar (Pushtu).
Description. Forehead and lines through the eye, down the neck and meeting as a gorget between the throat and the upper breast black ; forehead and indistinct supercilium grey, the latter albescent posteriorly; crown vinous-red, changing to ashy on hind-neck; back and scapulars vinous-red, grading into ashy on the lower back, rump and upper tail-coverts; tail-feathers ashy-drab, all but the central pair pale chestnut on the terminal half; outer scapulars with pure pale grey centres; lesser, median coverts and inner secondaries like the back; outer wing-coverts ashy; primaries and secondaries brown with a yellowish buff patch on the centre of the outer webs; ear-coverts dull chestnut; point of chin and angle of gape black ; lores, cheeks, chin and throat white, tinged with buff to a varying extent; below the black gorget the breast is ashy, more or less tinged with vinous-brown at the sides, the lower breast a purer grey ; abdomen, vent, thighs and lower tail-coverts chestnut-buff or buff; flanks grey at the base, with two black bars divided by grey and with chestnut tips.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown, yellowish or orange; the eye- lids brick-red to crimson; bill coral-red to crimson, dusky on the culmen and about the nostrils; legs and feet coral-red to deep red; claws dusky brown.
Measurements. Wing 146 to 180 mm.: tail 78 to 105 mm.: tarsus 41 to 52 mm. culmen 19 to 21 mm. " Weight, 19 to 27 oz., 13 to 19 oz." (Hume).
Young bird in first plumage dull brownish-grey, each feather Above with white tip and two black subterminal spots; head rather more rufescent; tail grey with mottled bars of black and white, the outer feathers tinged with rufous; below dirty brownish-white with faint brown bars.
Chick in down. Crown pale bright rufous; above pale fulvous with four stripes of speckled rufous and black; wings pale fulvous mottled rufous and black; below pale fulvous, a little darker on the chest.
Distribution. Throughout the Himalayas, as far East as Nepal, and in the hilly parts of the Punjab. It does not range West to Sind and Baluchistan or North to Ladak and Northern Kashmir.
Nidification. The Chukar breeds from the foot-hills up to 15,000 and even 16,000 feet but most commonly between 4,000 and 10,000 feet. Birds breeding in the lowest ranges lay from the end of March to May, those between 4,000 and 7,000 feet in the middle ranges in April to early June, whilst those in the highest ranges do not commence laying until June and eggs may be found in August. The nest is a hollow made in the ground under shelter of a rock or bush or among the roots of grass. Sometimes a thick pad of leaves or grass is collected as a bed for the eggs : at other times there is nothing but a little wind-blown rubbish. One nest found by Whistler was built on the top of a pollard-willow by a roadside. The eggs number seven to twelve or fourteen but occasionally far more are laid and Osmaston has taken twenty in a nest. In colour the eggs are a pale yellowish or grey-stone colour, very rarely with a tinge of cafe-au-lait, whilst the marking consists of freckles of light reddish scattered all over the surface but nowhere very numerous. Two hundred and fifty eggs average 43.0 x 31.4 mm.: maxima 48.2 x 32.1 and 46.1 x 33.1 mm.; minima 37.6 x 30.4 and 39.0 x 29.0 mm. Osmaston records that eggs are laid on alternate days.
Habits. The Chukar is a bird of open country of any kind but is not found in any sort of forest, though it frequents wide stretches of grass-land more or less surrounded by Pine and other woods. In parts of the North-West it is found in the barest, most inhospitable country, keeping to rocky hill-sides, ravines and boulder-strewn plateaus but it is equally common in other parts where there are grass-lands and cultivation. It is found up to the snow-line, working upwards in summer as the snow recedes to 14,000 and 16,000 feet. They collect in flocks of a dozen or so up to thirty but sometimes far more and Wilson (Mountaineer) mentions flocks of a hundred birds. They form good shooting, flying well and strongly, not difficult to flush, whilst the flocks often scatter after first rising and afford several shots when again put up. They live mainly on seeds but eat insects, grubs, worms, etc., and are themselves well flavoured but rather dry for the table. Ten or twelve brace are sometimes obtained in a day's shoot but anything over twenty is exceptional. During the breeding-season they are very pugnacious and their challenge may be heard ringing out from one hill-side to another. Hume syllabifies their call as " I'm here, I'm here; who's dead, who's dead ; oh lor, oh lor."