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Living with Birds 21 Facts on Grey Partridge Tweetapedia

21 Facts

Grey Partridge

  1. Once one of the most familiar birds of the British countryside, numbers have declined by as much as 80% in the last 30 years.
  2. Though now known as the grey partridge, it is often still called the English partridge or just the partridge.
  3. Where this bird has been introduced into North America is it generally known as the Hungarian partridge, reflecting the source of the stock birds.
  4. Few birds have been as intensively studied as this, but despite our detailed knowledge of its requirements, it has proved impossible to reverse its decline.
  5. Ironically, the only thriving populations in England today are to be found on shooting estates where the birds are carefully looked after and ground predators controlled.
  6. Grey partridges are remarkably adaptable, and can be found from coastal dunes to the edge of moorland.
  7. The cock can be readily identified by the chestnut horseshoe mark on his chest. Some females also carry a similar mark, but it is never as obvious.
  8. Partridges form pairs early in the year, and these birds will stay together until the autumn.
  9. Partridges lay the biggest clutches of any birds, with 14 to 15 eggs usual, and even bigger clutches often recorded.
  10. Only the female incubates the eggs, but the male is invariably close by.
  11. Both sexes are attentive parents, and where predators aren’t a problem it’s not unusual for all the chicks hatched to be reared.
  12. Cock grey partridges can be remarkably brave (or foolhardy) in defence of their young, and have been recorded flying at stoats, weasels and even humans.
  13. The young can feed as soon as they leave the nest, and are capable of their first proper flight at 15 days.
  14. Young chicks require a high proportion of insects in their diet: it is the lack of insects in the modern countryside that has led to the birds’ widespread decline.
  15. They are highly social birds, and after breeding it’s quite normal for two or even three families to join together to form sizeable coveys of 20 or more birds.
  16. These coveys will stay together throughout the autumn and winter, not breaking up until the birds start to form pairs in early January.
  17. The distinctive rasping call of the grey partridge, invariably uttered when the birds are flushed, is the easiest way to tell a grey from a red-legged partridge.
  18. Grey partridges also call at both dawn and at dusk, making it easier to locate these otherwise beautifully camouflaged birds.
  19. Once the most popular sporting bird in Britain, very few estates now shoot greys, concentrating instead on red-legs, which are much easier to rear in captivity.
  20. The grey partridge still has the reputation for being the finest eating of all British gamebirds.
  21. They are highly sedentary birds, seldom moving far from where they hatched. In contrast, hand-reared birds released for shooting seldom stay in the release area for long.
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