2013-14 NEVADA CHUKAR HUNTING FORECAST
How NDOW Surveys Chukar
The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) began aerial chukar density surveys in 1975 with the use of ahelicopter. Modifications were made over a ten year period and the survey methodology can be consideredconsistent since 1986. There are 13 survey plots, or transects, that have been surveyed since then andcare is taken to survey these transects in the same fashion each year. These transects are flown in a gridpattern where the aircraft flies up a drainage, fairly close to the ground, and down the adjacent ridge.Biologists record the number of birds observed
with care not to “double count” coveys.
Statistical applications show that biologists usually observe about 1/3 of a population in any given survey plot. Additionally, thereliability of a count is estimated to be about 70%. This means that if a biologist counts 100 birds per square mile in a studyarea, the actual number of birds would likely be between 210 and 390 birds, 95% of the time.
Determining male from female chukar is not an easy task, even for experienced persons. Some would quickly point to thepresence of a metatarsal spur as the distinguishing characteristic, but these are present on both sexes and Christiansen (1954
)determined that this could not be used with full confidence. Overall size may be a consideration, but for juvenile birds noticeabledifferences may not be evident. Cunningham (1959
) provided six characteristics that could be considered: 1) males tend to belarger and blockier, 2) the bill and tarsus of the male tends to be a brighter orange than the female, 3) the bill and tarsus arelarger and heavier on males; 4) the metatarsal spur is more prominent on male birds; 5) the throat patch enclosed by the blackmask appeared more buffy in males; and 6) the gray superciliary line appeared lighter and extended higher up on the crown onmales. Aside from these characteristics, the most reliable method is the examination of internal organs.
Fall Food Items
Fall food items found in 105 Nevada chukar crops from 1961-1965 (from Weaver and Haskell, 1967
for those items ≥
1% by volume)
Food Item Percent by Occurence Percent by Volume
Plants (seeds unless specified otherwise)
Cheatgrass (leaves and stems) 29.5 25.0Cheatgrass 64.8 24.9Fiddleneck 16.2 7.7Fiddleneck (leaves and stems) 5.7 2.7Lithophragma sp. (roots) 20.0 4.2Curly dock 7.6 4.2Sunflower sp. 6.7 3.8Rye brome 4.8 3.5Red-stem filaree 9.5 1.6
Grasshoppers 29.5 6.4Scales 6.7 2.3Rodent feces 10.5 1.3 Ants 12.4 1.0
For more information on chukar, please see “The Chukar Partridge” by Glen Christensen (1970) available on the NDOW website at
The Birds of North America, Number 258 (1996).
2013 Survey Results
Aerial chukar density surveys were conducted from August 19-22, 2013 which was the same week of August that these surveyswere conducted in 2012. Weather conditions were considered adequate across all transects with temperatures in the low to mid90s and mild winds; however, a noticeable amount of smoke was experienced on several transects stemming from wildfiresburning in California. The overall average number of birds observed per square mile across all transects was 41. Thisrepresents a 35% decrease from the 2012 average and an 18% decrease from the long term average of 49 birds per squaremile. Even though this suggests that overall bird numbers are down, most biologists reported at least some reproductionobserved during the surveys, which was a bit of a contrast from the 2012 surveys where very little to no production was noted.
2013-14 CHUKAR HUNTING
Although fall conditions in 2012 likely benefitted chukar by providing much needed green-up of forbs and grasses,December snowstorms brought some heavy snowpack that forced chukar to lower elevations where food sources were scarce.This coupled with weeks of very cold temperatures where inversions lingered well into January likely led to some winter mortality. February and March were relatively dry months in 2013 with some improvement in April in May, but likely not enoughto set the stage for good production and chick recruitment overall. A few areas experienced some localized storm events whichpositively influenced production, while others areas that did not experience these storms may have also had good production for which there may be no good explanation. Go figure!Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the overall outlook for the 2013-14 chukar season is poor to fair with a few brightspots. Chukar hunters will likely experience fewer coveys and smaller covey sizes this year, which will create some frustration.Hunters may experience better success by moving to an adjacent mountain range if they are not finding birds. As an example, it