For 90 days out of the year, Colorado sportsmen can hunt chukars, stocky game birds distinguished by their red legs and bills. Often a challenging hunt, chukars predominantly live along the Colorado and Gunnison river drainages. In order to develop chukar hunting along the Front Range, Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists will release about 400 wild chukars in northeast Colorado over the next two years. Ultimately, this project aims to establish a self-sustaining huntable population of chukar along the Northern Front Range for Colorado upland bird hunters to enjoy.
Historically, chukars have been transplanted in nearly every county in Colorado, however most of these transplants were either unsuccessful or were not monitored post-transplant and success could not be determined. Therefore, this transplant project will include an extensive monitoring component after transplant.
In August 2014, biologists released 168 wild chukars from Utah into the foothills of the Poudre Canyon near Fort Collins, Colo. Chukars were released in four different locations, which biologists evaluated before transplant to determine habitat suitability and chukar impact on native game or non-game birds.
Before release, biologists banded each chukar with aluminum leg bands. In addition, 60 birds were outfitted with 10-gram necklace radio collars, which will allow biologists to monitor survival during fall, winter and spring. If the 2014 release is deemed successful, biologists will release another 200 birds in 2015 in the same area.
How are the chukars doing? Read the biologist’s field notes for more information and monthly updates on the project.
Walk-in Live Traps
Walk-in traps were used in Utah to catch the wild chukars used in this transplant project. During the summer, birds in Utah use wildlife water guzzlers as their source of moisture in the desert. Water is placed in the walk-in traps so that the birds must walk into the wire box enclosure to reach the water source. Once the desired group of chukars is in the walk-in trap, biologists can approach and remove chukar one-by-one to holding in the transport cages.
Biologists used game-farm bird crates to transport and release chukars on the CPW Poudre project. Wild birds caught in Utah were put in these crates for transport by CPW aircraft and trucks to Colorado.
All 168 chukars are marked with uniquely numbered aluminum leg bands. These are commonly used in avian projects; they are lightweight and provide contact information for anyone that might find the remains of one of these chukars.
Sixty chukars were outfitted with a 10-gram, necklace-style radio collars that broadcast a radio signal at a Very High Frequency (VHF) that is unique to each radio. By using the telemetry receiver, the biologist is able to hear the sound made by each collar at each specific frequency. Each collar beats 30 times per minute when the bird is alive. When the collar hasn't moved for 8 hours the signal changes to 60 bpm so mortalities can be detected. The batteries in these collars should last about a year.
Radio Telemetry Antenna & Receiver
Radio telemetry equipment allows biologists to track the location of the birds by listening to the sounds by each radio collar. A field technician will monitor radio-collared chukar 3-4 days a week until spring 2015. Monitoring requires hiking up steep ridgelines to get sufficient elevation to be able to hear the radio signals of marked birds. General locations of live radio signals are recorded and any mortality signals are investigated further.