The Chukar​—A Stranger in Paradise

MY FRIENDS and I were looking forward to our visit to the Hawaiian island of Maui. We especially wanted to see a sunrise from the top of the Haleakala volcano, which rises to an altitude of 10,023 feet [3,055 m]. We had been told that it is a unique experience. The only drawback was that we had to get up at two o’clock in the morning to drive across the island from Kapalua, where we were staying. Then we had to face the steep climb up the mountain by car. We thought that at such an unearthly hour, it would be a lonely drive. Not at all! We were part of a caravan of vehicles that slowly made its way up the curving highway to the summit. When we reached the top, it was quite chilly. But we had brought blankets to keep us warm.

Hundreds of people were waiting patiently for sunrise at about six o’clock. There was great expectation in the air, and cameras were poised to catch this breathtaking sight. Surprise! At the critical moment, we were horrified to see a great bank of clouds come pouring into the crater, denying us our historic pictures! But it is a chance one always takes with mountains near the Pacific Ocean. So we had to swallow our disappointment and wait for the clouds slowly to clear away under the heat of the rising sun. Then, another surprise! There unfolded before us a panoramic view of the stark crater crisscrossed by hiking paths. All was not lost.

Suddenly we heard a strange sound​—a series of clipped chucks ending in “chuKAR, chuKAR.” Then we saw the source. It was a beautiful Eurasian bird of the partridge family, the chukar, whose Latin name is Alectoris chukar. It spends most of the breeding season on the ground, where it roosts. It did not attempt to fly away but chose rather to run away.

How did this type of bird happen to be on the paradise island of Maui? Apparently chukars had been introduced there. On the North American continent, they are regularly released for hunting purposes. We felt privileged that we had at least been able to view this shy bird close-up.​—Contributed.