Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Meet Chuck


He is a Chukar Partridge (Alectoris chukar) and for a brief moment in time, he was a regular visitor at our backyard feeder earlier this spring. I have heard of other people who have had this Middle Eastern native arrive on their back doorstep in Ontario before, so when we got home one weekend from a birding trip and opened our back curtains to find a Chukar under our feeder, despite my surprise, I knew what he was!

Chuck stayed with us for about a week and we enjoyed his company. "He" (sex was not confirmed) was rather cute and pudgy and had a funny way about him, but he was very alert, and kept a safe distance from us. We thought (or hoped) he might permanently set up house because he had the advantage of the woodlot directly behind our backyard to seek shelter and he had a reliable food source (us). I was even willing to put up with his rather messy and abundant droppings all over my new patio if it meant we could be friends. 

Here is a rather comical video we were able to get:  

Alas, the day came when he was no longer able to cope with the stresses of urban life. It was getting warmer outside, which meant that there was more activity in the backyard. Our neighbours were getting ready to install a patio, and we were planting a tree and working in our gardens. Lawn mowers were revving their engines. One day it just got to be too much for him, and the last I saw of him he was running down the middle of our subdivision road at full speed without a glance behind. I waved goodbye but he didn't notice. I hope he is somewhere safe. It's a concrete jungle out there. I'm sure it must be terrifying for a bird who is native to the open hillsides of Asia.

Which takes us to the fact that sightings of this species in Ontario are an uncommon but regular occurrence. If Chukars are a native of Asia (according to Wikipedia from Israel and Turkey through Afghanistan to India, along the inner ranges of the Western Himalayas to Nepal), how the heck do they wind up in our backyards in Canada? This species is actually a popular gamebird. It is in the pheasant family Phasianidae. And since hunting gamebirds is a popular pastime for many people all over the world, there are businesses who breed them for recreational hunting. Or, some people may just keep them as part of their hobby farm collection.

Where there are ways to escape, an animal will try. And so Chukar escapees, like waterfowl and other wildlife that are kept in confined spaces, may find themselves "free" and in their travels beyond the fences that were meant to keep them in one place, they wind up showing up on people's back doorstep so-to-speak. This species appears to be fairly adaptable to other climates - it is believed that there are actually feral populations in the province, as well as other areas of North America. So watch out for Chuck in your backyard, you might be next :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too, have a "Chuck" at my feeder this winter, and was happy to confirm my identification partly through your article, although the markings are clear. I am just north of Toronto, but have been offering feeders for thirty years or so, so I have numerous species as regulars here. Hoping the resident red-tail hawks don't meet Chuck, but he (or she) does a good job of staying under cover most of the time. Thanks for your interesting read.