Outdoors: New Neighbors | Dakota News

Won’t you be my neighbor? The author encountered a pair of chukars on a few outings and heard them calling in the hills around his house. The birds are native to the Mediterranean region of Europe and Asia, often used for dog training, and wild and introduced populations have established themselves across the U.S. Image: Creative Commons Unlimited Use allowed.

By Nick Simonson

I saw our new neighbors for the first time in the dim light of an early February morning. As I walked the dogs up their driveway, they watched us warily, but unlike the residents who had been in our building for a while, didn’t take off when both my large Lab and German Shepherd made sudden, subtle movements toward them. I found this strange. The next encounter was much the same. Although this time someone was on the roof of the house across the street observing their new neighborhood, again just before sunrise. He let out an unfamiliar, startled laugh as we approached and paused to offer our private greetings, but he didn’t leave in spite of the snooty dogs trying again to make friends.

Finally, while working in my basement just last week, I happened to peek out the window into the little strip of a side yard and noticed both newcomers to our development scurrying through young shoots of green grass, mounds of dog poop left over from the long winter. Then everything came together.

The reason these two strange immigrants to our neck of the prairie didn’t take off like the flying bird of the Hungarian partridge that lived in the rutted stretches of our suburban lot is because they weren’t partridges at all, but rather, they were chukars. With some amusing oblivion, they made their way through the yard, jumped over the fence and went down into the yard of the next-door neighbor and disappeared from sight. It was likely that they escaped testing hounds, as hunters use the chukar to train new dogs, or to keep older dogs sharp in the off-season. When planted and tucked into the grass of those hills just a half-block away, they likely avoided detection in one training session and, unlike some less fortunate birds in their cuvĂ©es, were spared the teeth of an aggressive puppy looking to prove their mettle.

I texted a friend at Game and Fish, and he confirmed not only that a good number of volunteer upland birds are around town, likely coming from this angler-based source, but that there were enough of them in the area to keep The population multiplied as well. Amazed at the evolution, I kept a keen eye and ear this spring, listening for the chuk-chuk-chuk call mixed with the day’s score of robins chirping, mourning doves cooing, and the dawn-and-dusk call of rooster pheasants scurrying across the hillsides in our two-block neighborhood. Sure, while cleaning up the yard, walking the dogs, or relaxing on the deck in our limited springtime, chukars are in there, too, and seem to be enjoying their new digs.

While they often succumb to weather and predators that take over gullible birds from being raised on a farm or in a barn for the purpose of dog training, some chukars seem to have better survival skills than others. I note that although they aren’t the most wary of introductions, they often assume elevated stances, which likely keep them out of harm’s way from random neighborhood dogs, and even wolves’ lairs below the pumpkin still howling in the shrinking darkness of early morning. Whether they’re sitting on a rooftop at sunrise, or randomly displaying their staccato rhythm as the morning warms, they’re fast becoming a cool, fun part of all those things that blend where suburban edge meets first edge….

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