Many birders ask me how to find a CHUKAR. Or, more precisely, "Why can't I find a Chukar?" The best place to look for Chukar in San Benito County is Shotgun Pass on Little Panoche Road in Panoche Valley.The method that I use is to drive very slowly through the winding road, but be extremely careful to watch and listen for traffic! At the same time, watch for movement on the grassy slopes. I have found that using the car as a blind works better than walking through the pass. It will help if you have one or two other birders in your car, so that at least one person can pay attention to the traffic. Sometimes, Chukars are simply sitting on top of the rocks. Sometimes, I find them by hearing their chucking sounds before seeing them! They are speedy! Those feet are on the move in the image, below!
Chukars are introduced in the United States from Pakistan. The Chukars at Shotgun Pass breed in this area, making them "countable" for one's bird list. I have seen young Chukars in this pass. They are hunted as a game species at the Panoche Hills and Griswold Hills BLM areas at this time of year. Chukars can also be found in those areas, but are more difficult to see than at Shotgun Pass. Timing can be everything— on Thanksgiving Day, my car was the first car through the pass. We saw two ROCK WRENS, driving very slowly. In the process of slowing for the wrens, we did not know that we had very likely alerted Chukars that were out of our sight. The alarmed Chukars ran right into view for the second car! So, it takes a bit of luck with timing.
Remarkably, Chukars can be greatly camouflaged. There is a Chukar in the image above! All images copyright, Sophie Webb. With a little bit of luck, you'll find a "chuk."
San Benito County Birding