Alectoris chukar is found within the partridge Family (Phasianidae) and there are 14 recognised subspecies. Asides from these subspecies A. chukar is most closely related to the Rock Partridge (A. gracea) the Red-legged Partridge (A. rufa) and the Barbary Partridge (A. Barbara).
The Chukar is approximately 32 to 35cm in length with a wingspan ranging between 47 and 52cm, this medium-sized partridge can weigh up to 800g. There is some sexual dimorphism (a) with the male being larger than the female (1). It is grey in colour from the top of the head down the neck to its breast. It has a buff or cream coloured bib that is separated from the grey by a black band which extends from the top of its bill and meets in a ‘V’ shape at the top of its breast. Their rump and upper body parts are a beige or brown colour and the tail corners are brown. Its legs and bill are red and its sides are similar to that of other partridges; black and brown with white stripes (2).
They are found on sunny, dry hill slopes, normally above the main tree line. Phrygana (c) and maquis (d) type shrublands with springs and streams are the preferred habitat (3). They occupy a broad altitudinal zone, ranging from sea level to 2,000m (3).
These birds are common in the Middle East but are rarer in other parts of Europe, especially north east Greece. They were also introduced into America as a game bird. Alectoris chukar has a primarily island distribution in Greece and occurs on many islands in the Aegean including the island of Ikaria.
They are sedentary birds and do not migrate, any seasonal movement will be altitudinal.
In winter these birds are primarily found in small groups on the ground foraging. They are diurnal (b) in nature and can be seen throughout the day hopping over rough terrain. Flight is limited to bursts of a few hundred meters, usually downhill, as a result they prefer running to flying. Nesting territories will be guarded aggressively and they predominantly roost under bushes and outcrops (1).
The calls are primarily made when there are other birds within their territory, these calls are highly variable. Calls have a fast, loud, and rhythmic pace to them and are monosyllabic; ‘chuck, chuck, chuck cha-chakera-chakera (1) (2).
Alectoris chukar feeds predominantly on the various seeds it finds upon the ground. If seeds are short they will occasionally eat insects.
The IUCN lists the Chukar as a species of Least Concern on its Red List (e) (4). However encroachment by humans into their habitats is always a problem and, on some islets, populations have been nearly eradicated due to over hunting.
Description written by Stephanie Walker (2009). Edited by Ross Atkinson (2013)
(1) Peterson. L. – Animal Diversity Web (1995) Alectoris chukar [online] Available: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Alectoris_chukar.html [date accessed: 04/04/2009]
(2) Hume. R. (2002) Complete Birds of Britain and Europe, Dorling Kindersley Limited, London
(3) Handrinos. G., and Akriotis. T. (1997) The Birds of Greece, A & C Black, London
(4) IUCN (2009) IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [online] Available:
http://www.iucnredlist.org [date accessed : 17/06/2009]