What's the deal with Chukars in Maine?

Depending on where you live, you may have the fortune of encountering a medium-sized game bird called Chukar. You’ll recognize this bird from their inclusion in many North American field guides, though they are not a native species. Chukars, pronounced “chuh-kahr“, are an introduced species, originating from mountains of middle Eurasia, now common around the western United States’ Great Basin north into western Canada. With this history, and a lack of showing any establishing populations in Maine, Chukars should be treated like other escaped domestic fowl and not entered in eBird.

The American Birding Association put forth Criteria for Determining Establishment of Exotics which Maine’s Chukars don’t meet. These birds are raised and released by commercial hunting operations with no success establishing wild populations. Northern Bobwhites are another game species widely released in Maine. While these small quails have successfully bred in the wild multiple times, none of the populations appear to be growing or even stable enough to warrant becoming established.

Ring-necked Pheasants are the exception. They have a longer history in Maine and are now considered an established exotic. These birds have been surviving the harsh winters and breeding on islands and coastal York and Cumberland Counties for decades and appear to be spreading through central Maine. These have long been on the Maine Bird Record Committee’s Official List of Maine Birds despite continual introductions by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. In 2017 alone, about 2300 pheasants were released in these southern counties.