Chukars Are Doing Their Spring Thing Again

For about half of the year most Chukars on Antelope Island are shy and inaccessible in more remote areas of the island but when spring rolls around they come out to play. After looking pretty drab for many months they’re now all dressed up in their bright, fresh plumage and they become bolder as they call from rocks, compete for mates and pair up.

 

1/1250/ f/8, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

Yesterday morning I spent some quality time with an obviously mated pair. When I stopped to photograph them it only took them a few minutes to accept my presence and soon they completely ignored me. At one point I thought they actually might walk under my pickup.

This bird isn’t doing much of anything interesting but the perch really caught my eye because with its concave shape it reminds me a little of an old metate (grinding stone) like the ones we used to find in southern Utah when I was working for the Utah Museum of Natural History.

 

 

1/3200/ f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

As they were foraging for food in the grasses it was difficult to get eye contact in my photos. This is one of the relatively few times I caught a bird watching me.

 

 

1/640, f/10, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 227mm, not baited, set up or called in

I include this shot to give readers a feeling for how close these Chukars were to me. I’m shooting down at the bird at about a 45° angle and at times they walked inside the shadow of my pickup that we see at lower left. And even that close this one is puffed up in a relaxed pose.

 

 

1/640, f/10, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 220mm, not baited, set up or called in

Males are larger than females and I believe this to be the female of the pair. While she was foraging she suddenly noticed a couple of small clumps of feathers on her belly that needed her attention. Here she’s working over the larger of the two clumps in an apparent attempt to separate the individual feathers that were stuck together.

 

 

1/640, f/10, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 220mm, not baited, set up or called in

After she released the feathers she carefully inspected her handiwork but as we can see they were still clumped together so…

 

 

1/640, f/10, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 220mm, not baited, set up or called in

she worked on them again for a while.

 

 

1/400, f/10, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 227mm, not baited, set up or called in

I’ll end with an image that includes both birds to show their relative size – the smaller female is in front. From their behavior it was obvious that they were a bonded pair.

This is the time of year when Chukars are most approachable. Soon the female will be on eggs and when the precocial youngsters hatch the family groups become more wary as they scurry about in the vegetation looking for food and trying to avoid predators.

Ron

 

 

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27 comments to Chukars Are Doing Their Spring Thing Again

  • Charlotte Norton

    Wonderful series Ron, thanks to you,I recognized one here when I saw it!

    Charlotte

  • April Olson

    Very lovely photos, it is nice when they co-operate. I always hear them but when I spot them they are usually too far to photograph. I was looking closely at Mia’s photos Do they have ragged edged feathers or is that feather mite damage? To my eye it looks a bit buggy.

    • April, I don’t know. I’d be just a little surprised if it was mite damage this early in the year but you’re the expert (compared to me…). Maybe the feather tips were just a little wet.

  • Beautiful, colorful birds. Thank you so much, Ron, for all you share with us–to delight and educate us.

  • Laura Culley

    See me doing my happy dance? OH WOW! Don’t you just love it when you become part of the scenery (in their eyes)? That’s such a special time when y’all can just hang out for a while.
    I was delighted yesterday when a covey of Gambel’s quail visited my back yard. Unfortunately/fortunately (simultaneously), my Brittany puppy was outside and he’s learning to stalk/point birds for later in the fall when I hope my HH catches a few. Great that he got some practice, but I also just wanted to watch them. Thankfully, they gave me another opportunity to watch this morning while Cody was inside taking his morning nap.
    EC I’m with you on the getting a life thing. But that said, I have a pretty good life, watching birds (and other critters) and I’m good with that. 🙂

  • The beagle boys are back!!!
    Woo Hoo. And happy dances.
    Following your blog I have realised that I get excited to see your birds return, just as I do ours. A part of me thinks ‘get a life’, and is dismissed instantly. World wide excitement, beauty and fun is a winner which I won’t give up anytime soon.

  • Nancy Blake

    Great photos of lovely birds -I’d heard the name but never knew what they looked like. Are they related to grouse? I will have to go read up on them at Cornell.

  • Marty K

    Very cool for you, yet a little worrisome for them, that they ventured so close to your truck. As for the preening, she’s gotta look good for her man. 😉 Interesting that they’re fluffy when relaxed; seems counterintuitive in dealing with possible threats. Birds is some of ze craziest peoples!

    It’s been mighty warm — and pollen-y *achoo!* — here too. :/

  • Trudy Brooks

    Use to see those little birds when I was younger, living in Basin,Wy area. We even ate one. Taste like a greasy chicken. Anyway they are so beautiful and cute. I hate when the weather goes from the 60’s to the 80’s in a short period of time. Just to hot for me too.

  • Patty Chadwick

    Nice series to start the day with…makes me believe in Spring! As for the temp., do you REALLY believe in global warming??? REALLY??? Just because we now go from Winter to Summer, from vold to hot (forgetvaboit warm!) and because each season is warmer than the last…setting records each year…..are you serious!??? Oh, yes! You’re a Scientist…and they’ll believe anything! Sorry, I forgot….

  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful birds, Ron.:) They are colorful little birds. Glad you caught them at the right time. 🙂 Green grass nice to see also! Supposed to be in the 70’s here after their forecast for much needed moisture fell through – WAY to warm for the meager snow pack we have. 🙁 Robins and Killdeers are arriving so spring is eminent! I know – Dick would like some of this!

  • Dick Harlow

    Beautiful images Ron, love the colors.
    But, right now seeing all that new green grass makes me lust for seeing green grass here. Then, I remember the saying “be careful what you wish (lust) for,” you may regret the hot temps this spring and summer! LOL!
    Just the same spring can’t come soon enough for me!

    • Dick, It’s supposed to be in the low 80’s here today which will be an all time record for the entire month of March. Too damned hot, too damned early…

      • April Olson

        I am hoping we did not hit 80 today, but then that would explain my headache. I spent the day in the Rush Valley watching home made rockets set off. (I did birding on the side while my husband watched rockets)

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