Chukar PartridgeAlectoris chukar has a natural range spanning dry temperate Eurasia, from southeast Europe to Bohai Gulf; introduced to North America and elsewhere. In China, pubescens resident western Qinghai and western Sichuan through Inner Mongolia to Liaoning, falki western Xinjiang, pallida western and southern Xinjiang, fallax Tianshan (Xinjiang), pallescens western Tibet, and dzungarica eastern Tibet. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Open arid and semi-arid country, often on rocky slopes and plains with short grass cover and scattered bushes; to 4500 m (14,760 ft.), lower in winter. Shy; when flushed explodes from cover, flying quickly but not far before dropping to ground. Often in coveys, especially outside breeding season. ID & COMPARISON Compact, rotund, boldly marked. Black necklace encircles throat, running from forehead through eyes and down neck sides and meeting on upper breast. Whitish flanks show bold, rib-like black and chestnut bars. Most of upperparts and breast grey with pinkish-buff hue to mantle, wings, and sides of neck (may extend to breast). Belly and undertail coverts chestnut-buff. Throat creamy white. Female slightly smaller than male; in juvenile, head pattern barely discernible. Ssp. tend to be paler according to dryness of habitat. Przevalski’s PartridgeA. magna has russet edge to black necklace; Chukar has only a russet streak behind eye; necklace faint where meets on upper breast (equally strong in Chukar); and Przevalski’s lacks black at base of bill. BARE PARTS Bright red bare parts conspicuous: red eye-ring encircles brown eye; short coral-red bill (black in juvenile) stands out from necklace and throat; and reddish-pink feet (no spur in female) contrast with pale underparts. VOICE Hoarse and rapid chukar-chukar-chukar call, reminiscent of domestic hen; higher yelps when excited. — Craig Brelsford
In this and the next post, posts 3 and 4 of our five-part series, I offer you an illustrated list of the interesting birds that I have recorded in Northern Xinjiang. The posts are divided into passerines and non-passerines, with this post showcasing the latter. The image above shows three of our key birds of Xinjiang 2017: clockwise from left, Long-legged Buzzard, Red-fronted Serin, and Eversmann’s Redstart. — Craig Brelsford
Ruddy ShelduckTadorna ferruginea
Red-crested PochardNetta rufina
White-headed DuckOxyura leucocephala
On 21 June 2017 we scoped 2 at Baihu, the reservoir in the hills west of downtown Urumqi. We considered ourselves lucky to get the distant view, as there have been only a handful of records of this rare duck in Northern Xinjiang.
Little Bittern is yet another species whose range across Eurasia is checked by the deserts of western China. The species occurs no further east than Xinjiang, where in 2017 we recorded it in reservoirs and lakes in the Jungar Basin.
Eastern Imperial EagleAquila heliaca
On 22 July 2017 at Daquangou Reservoir, we found, distant but unmistakable through our scopes, an adult or sub-adult Eastern Imperial Eagle. The raptor was standing on a spit amid hundreds of wary gulls.
ShikraAccipiter badius cenchroides
At Hongyanglin on 23 July and 24 July 2017, we heard Shikra calling unseen from the dense poplar forest. Race cenchroides is a summer visitor to Xinjiang.
UPDATE, 16 Dec. 2018: I originally published here a set of three photos of a dark morph Buteo that I mistakenly ID’d as a Steppe Eagle. The photos have since been removed. The misidentified Buteo was photographed by me at Baiyanggou on 20 July 2017. Later, we noted but did not photograph Steppe Eagle at two locations in the Altai Mountains.
Western Marsh HarrierCircus aeruginosus
Black KiteMilvus migrans
White-tailed EagleHaliaeetus albicilla
Long-legged BuzzardButeo rufinus rufinus
Demoiselle CraneGrus virgo
Eurasian OystercatcherHaematopus ostralegus
Eurasian CurlewNumenius arquata
Black-tailed GodwitLimosa limosa
Common SandpiperActitis hypoleucos
Caspian GullLarus cachinnans cachinnans
Black TernChlidonias niger
On 29 July 2017 we recorded 2 Black Tern at Qinggeda Lake, a reservoir in the northern suburbs of Urumqi. This marsh tern is common in Europe but rare in China, breeding only in Xinjiang. Vagrants sometimes reach the coast.
Pallas’s SandgrouseSyrrhaptes paradoxus
My only sandgrouse record in Xinjiang came 21 July 2017 at Baihu. The sandgrouse were calling unseen around sunset.
Stock DoveColumba oenas
European Turtle DoveStreptopelia turtur arenicola Oriental Turtle DoveS. orientalis meena
Common CuckooCuculus canorus
European NightjarCaprimulgus europaeus
European RollerCoracias garrulus
European Bee-eaterMerops apiaster
White-backed WoodpeckerDendrocopos leucotos
White-winged WoodpeckerDendrocopos leucopterus
Black WoodpeckerDryocopus martius
Grey-headed WoodpeckerPicus canus
Lesser KestrelFalco naumanni
Saker FalconFalco cherrug
This post is the third in a five-post series about birding in Northern Xinjiang.
Northern Xinjiang, July 2017: Introduction: In this first post, Craig Brelsford gives you an introduction to Northern Xinjiang and an overview of the expedition of July 2017. Bounded by the Tianshan to the south and the Altai to the north, and with the Jungar Basin at its heart, Northern Xinjiang is one of the premier birding areas in China.
Notes on Birding in Northern Xinjiang: Read Craig Brelsford’s notes on the “European” birds of Xinjiang as well as other observations recorded during the 2017 expedition. In Xinjiang, birders are saiwai (塞外), “beyond the (Great) Wall”—in China, but not in East Asia.
Photo Gallery of the Birds of Northern Xinjiang (Non-Passerines) (you are here)