Grey Partridges are widespread native gamebirds from Western Europe to Central Asia, although sadly, their population has declined dramatically in the UK and most of their European range. They are often known as the Hungarian Partridge in the New World, where they were first introduced over 200 years ago.
The Grey Partridge is a small, plump gamebird with mostly grey plumage. A rufous patch across the belly and an orange face are their most distinctive features, but whitish underparts and rusty steaks on the wings and flanks also identify these birds. Flying birds show orange outer tail feathers.
Females are similar to males, although slightly smaller. They also have less orange plumage around the face and a smaller horseshoe-shaped marking on the lower breast. Both sexes have white streaking on the scapulars (shoulder area), although these streaks include crossbars in females only, forming a marking known as ‘the Cross of Lorraine’.
Juveniles of both sexes look similar to adult females, although they lack the chestnut marking across the breast and rust-coloured face plumage. Juveniles also have yellowish (not grey) legs.
These birds are most easily confused with the Red-legged Partridge in the UK and the Northern Bobwhite and Chukar in the United States.
Grey Partridge walking in natural habitat
Adults measure 30 to 33 centimetres or 12 to 13 inches. Females are slightly smaller than males.
Most individuals weigh between 385 and 500 grams, although males can reach 600 grams, and smaller females may weigh just 310 grams.
Adults have a wingspan of 45 to 48 centimetres or 18 to 19 inches.
Grey Partridge in a stubble field
Grey Partridges have a high-pitched, scratchy voice, most similar to a Tern. They make a cackling ‘kut kut kut’ alarm call and a squeaky call likened to a rusty gate hinge in the twilight of dusk and dawn.
Grey Partridge calling out
Grey Partridges are omnivorous, although seeds and green plant material form the bulk of their diet. Cereals and weeds are the most important food plants, but they also eat insects in the warmer months.
Grey Partridge chicks eat insects that they hunt themselves. Their parents may encourage them to eat by dropping morsels in front of them, but they do not feed the young birds directly.
Grey Partridges foraging in grassy habitat
Grey Partridges inhabit pasture, low arable croplands and stubble fields. They also inhabit short natural grasslands with patches of taller vegetation and occasionally forage in wooded areas.
Grey Partridges are widespread in Europe and Asia, ranging from the Republic of Ireland in the west to Mongolia in the east. They are widespread in North America, particularly in Southern Canada and the West and Midwest of the USA, but also to Nova Scotia in the east.
Grey Partridges are terrestrial birds that spend almost all their time on the ground. They are capable of flight, although they usually travel on foot, rarely flying more than a few hundred yards.
Grey Partridges are shy and difficult to spot in their short but often dense habitat. They have become increasingly rare in the United Kingdom, although numbers have recovered somewhat on carefully managed farmland with predator control. They can be common in suitable farmland habitats in the United States and Canada.
Grey Partridges are most common in open grassland and grain farming areas in the West and upper Midwest in states like Montana, North Dakota, and Idaho. They persist in some parts of the Northeast and Great Lakes region but have declined in the east of their range due to changing farming practices.
Grey Partridges are widespread in the United Kingdom, occurring in arable farmland from the south of England to eastern Scotland. They are rare in the southeast and southwest, however, and mostly absent from Wales and Northern Ireland.
Grey Partridge in open grassland
Grey Partridges are relatively short-lived birds with a maximum recorded lifespan of just five years.
Grey Partridges are vulnerable to many predators as adults, chicks, and eggs. Adults fall prey to raptors like Sparrowhawks, Great-horned Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, and many others. Their eggs are often eaten by mammals like Foxes, Badgers, Raccoons, Stoats, Rats, Mink, and Skunks.
Grey Partridges are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act in the United Kingdom. In the United States, these introduced birds are largely managed as non-native gamebirds but are protected in a handful of states.
Grey Partridges are globally listed as a ‘Least Concern’ species. In the UK, however, they have declined by over 80% since the early 1900s. Changing farming methods and pesticide use have dramatically impacted the wild population, and they are now red-listed as a species of conservation of concern.
They have disappeared from some eastern parts of their introduced range in North America but are faring better in the west, where their range continues to expand southwards.
Pair of Grey Partridges in natural habitat
Grey Partridges nest on the ground, usually among hedgerows and along roadsides and fencelines. The nest is a scrape up to 30 centimetres or 12 inches in diameter and lined with grass and other available vegetation.
These birds nest in the spring and summer months, with egg-laying starting in April. Females lay their eggs over a period of roughly two weeks, and incubation begins when the clutch is complete. The eggs hatch after about 25 days, and the hatchlings leave the nest soon after.
Grey Partridges lay a single large clutch of 15 to 17 pale brown/ olive eggs, each measuring approximately 36 millimetres long and 27 millimetres wide.
Grey Partridges may mate for life, although they are short-lived birds, and they will seek another mate when they lose a partner.
Grey Partridge adult with young chick
Grey Partridges are social gamebirds that live in coveys of up to 25 individuals. The birds within these groups are rarely aggressive toward each other, although they may fight with intruders from other coveys.
Grey Partridges sleep on the ground in their coveys. In the winter, individuals will huddle close together in fine snow or at the base of vegetation to keep warm.
Grey Partridge resting in farmland habitat
Grey Partridges are generally non-migratory in the United Kingdom and North America, although Eastern European populations may move to lower altitudes in winter or move in response to weather conditions.
Grey Partridges are not native to North America. Introductions began as early as the late 1700s and continue in some states today.
Grey Partridges are native to the United Kingdom, where they have been known since at least the Middle Ages.
The Grey Partridge is a popular gamebird among hunters. A quick internet search reveals no shortage of recipes for these small, intensely flavoured gamebirds.
Gray-Legged Partridge, English Partridge, Hungarian Partridge, Hun
Family:Pheasants and partridges
30cm to 33cm
45cm to 48cm
385g to 500g
Lady Amherst’s Pheasant
The Lady Amherst’s pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) is one of the most striking birds on the planet. A member of the Phasianidae family, these long-tailed ground birds are native to forests and woodlands in Southeast Asia but can be found in collections all over the world today. They were named after the wife of a colonial governor and were introduced into parts of England in the mid-1800s.
A large pheasant that can be found in parts of central and eastern China. It has also been introduced to parts of Europe and can be seen in France, the Czech Republic and less commonly in the UK.
Introduced to the United Kingdom in the 1600s, the Red-legged Partridge is an ornate little gamebird that forages in arable farmland. Millions of birds are released each year for hunting, but these continental natives also occur in self-sustaining naturalised populations.
The pheasant, otherwise known as the Common Pheasant or Ring Necked Pheasant, is a prolific gamebird found throughout the UK and western Europe, with many birds raised in captivity.
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