Chukar at Westgate Park (Fisherman's Bend, Melbourne)

To: Dr Richard Nowotny <>, bird <>
Subject: Chukar at Westgate Park (Fisherman's Bend, Melbourne)
From: brian fleming <>
Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2006 17:55:16 +1100
Dr Richard Nowotny wrote:

Late this afternoon (Thurs 16 Feb) at Westgate Park, a small
rehabilitated wetland alongside the eastern (city) ramp of the
Westgate Bridge in Fisherman’s Bend, I had an entirely unexpected
close encounter with a Chukar Partridge (Alectoris chukar) [or
possibly the closely related and very difficult to separate Rock
Partridge (A. graeca)].

This well-known game bird which has been introduced to many locations
worldwide (including New Zealand) originates from a broad geographic
area across southern Asia (or in the case of Rock Partridge from
eastern France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Greece). [Ref: HBW,
Vol. 2]

HANZAB Vol. 2 notes that Chukar, while found widely in the south
island of NZ, is “not established” in Australia, despite a number of
releases in the 19^th century, and this species is not on the official
Australian list.

An apparently healthy single bird was seen on the top of the highest
point at Westgate Park, a small hill in the north-west corner of the
park, close to the Herald and Weekly Times building and over the road
from part of the General Motors Holden complex. It was surprisingly
confiding, coming to within about 5 metres before being flushed by a
pair of dogs which initially caused it to run and then to fly across
the road, ending in a long glide into the fenced GMH property where I
lost sight of it and was unable subsequently to find it again.

Presumably this is an escaped or released bird.

Does anyone have any suggestions/comments re any of the following:

   1. Is this an important sighting?
   2. Should it be formally reported? (Martin?)
   3. What might its origins be?
   4. Is it worth enquiring of any aviculturists or similar re
      possible escape/release?


Port Melbourne, Victoria

M: 0438 224456

Dear Richard,
The confiding behaviour of your Chukor sounds as if it was an escape -
which would be my guess in any case. Quite a few people keep Pheasants
of various species (we've had a male Common Pheasant and on another
occasion a female or immature male Golden or Amherst Pheasant in our
Ivanhoe backyard, many years ago). They also keep various exotic Quail
and Chukor and other partridge type birds. You would have to contact an
Avicultural Society for information, but these days they are rather
secretive - their birds are valuable and they are worried about possible
thefts. So they don't advertise their birds' presence in any way.

Several years ago I was at the Bird Observers Club HQ (not BOCA in those
days). A phone call came in asking for an ID of a very funny looking
bird which had perched on the inquirer's fence. She said it had been
scratching in the garden like a chook before it flew up to the fence,
and that it resembled a King Quail blown up to the size of a small
football, with a black-edged bib under its beak. I asked if it had
strong stripes on the flanks, she agreed , I said it sounded like a
Chukor (I had recently seen some in the Zoo). She said "I'm so glad it's
not imaginary!" and said she would ring a neighbour who had a lot of
funny birds.

Unless a fair number of birds escaped or were released, I doubt if they
could possibly establish themselves, particularly in the suburbs. Too
many foxes and other predators and they nest on the ground.
Anthea Fleming

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