Grey Partridge

Perdix perdix

29-31cm

Appearance

A smaller game bird than the Pheasant, the Grey Partridge is stout and well camouflaged, with a small head and short legs. The sexes look quite similar; grey and brown finely marked plumage, an orange-buff face, and flanks that are striped with maroon. There's a chestnut mark on the belly which is smaller and less distinct in the female. A reddish tail is revealed in flight. Juvenile birds are streaked and greyish and are without the markings of adults.

Habitat

This is a resident bird that breeds in lowland Britain and at a few sites in Ireland; the highest numbers are found in central and eastern England and south-east Scotland. The ideal habitat for these birds is a combination of pasture and cereal fields with mature hedgerows. Open areas of low grass are suitable for nesting, provided there is cover and dry areas where the birds are able to dust bathe.

Character

This bird is generally on-guard and flighty, and rightfully so considering it is persecuted in parts of the region. For majority of the year, the birds form flocks (coveys) of 6-15 individuals, and they're most active at dawn and dusk. More likely to hide and hope to be camouflaged than to take flight; it rarely flies far, but when in the air it beats its wings quickly then glides on bowed wings.

Food

Young Grey Partridges eat a variety of invertebrates such as aphids, sawflies, ant larvae, weevils and beetles. The diet of adults includes leaves and seeds of plants such as knotgrass and chickweed, and insects, particularly caterpillars and other larvae.

Breeding

Pairs form in the winter. Females lay 13-16 eggs in late April or May, and she incubates for 24 days. In some cases, two females share a nest. Young birds depart the nest quickly and can feed themselves for the most part. They can fly after approximately 15 days if threatened, but it takes 100 days for them to be fully grown. Juveniles remain with parents through their first winter.

Population

Population has been in decline over the last 50 years, with a reduction of 30% between 2005 – 2010. Farming methods, especially the use of pesticides and herbicides, has affected the farmland insects, which chicks rely on as an early component of their diet. There are now an estimated 43 000 pairs in the UK and fewer than 20 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

Coveys can often be seen in open fields when not in breeding season.

Voice

Has a choked, grating 'kierr-ikk', particularly at dawn and dusk. If alarmed, it utters a 'kip-ip-ip' flight call.
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