The Bird's Habitat, Appearance and Habits

» The Partridge, its habitat, appearance and habits
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The Partridge was known in older English as the Pertriche, in Scottish as the Patrick, in Dutch is the Patrijs, and in French Perdrix, all from the Latin Perdix, which word in sound does not imitate badly the call-note of this bird, So well known throughout the UK and the greater part or Europe.  The English name properly denotes the only species indigenous to Britain, often nowadays called the Grey Partridge (to distinguish it from others, of which more presently), the Perdix perdix of ornithologists, also known as the Hungarian Partridge in the USA, a species which may be regarded as the model game-bird - whether from the excellence of the sport it affords in the field, or the no less excellence of its flesh at table, which has been esteemed from the time of Martial to our own - while it is on all hands admitted to be wholly innocuous, and at times beneficial to the agriculturist.  In India the name Grey Partridge is used for Ortygornis ponticerianus which is perhaps a Francolin (rf. Jerdon, B. Ind. iii. p. 569).

The Partidge's Habitat

This bird thrives in cultivated land, and the areas which are carefully tilled, and bear the greatest quantity of grain and green crops, will generally produce the greatest number of Partridges.  The Partridge largely increased in numbers in Great Britain from beginning of the 19th century until that century's end, when so much down, heath and moorland was first brought under the plough. However the Partridge population in the UK has reduced by around 80% from the 1930s to the first decade of the 21st century, as a result of highly intensive farming and cultivation of the land.
Greek Partridge picture
Picture of Greek Partridge


Appearance and Habits of the Partridge

The partridge's partiality to arable country is very evident. It has been observed that the birds which live on grass lands or heather only are apt to be smaller and darker in colour than the average; but in truth the species when adult is subject to a much greater variation in plumage than is commonly supposed, and the well-known chestnut horse-shoe mark, generally considered distinctive of the cock, is very often absent (certain characters in the plumage can unfailingly distinguish the two sexes of this species. In the adult cock the sides of the neck are grey, but in the hen olive-brown, while nearly each feather shows a buff shaft-stripe. Again the median upper wing-coverts in the cock are of a sandy-brown blotched with chestnut and black transverse lines, while in the hen the corresponding feathers are blackish-brown with conspicuons buff crossbars).

It is a very active bird, not taking to flight if it can escape by means of its legs, and, itself, taking care to interpose, as it runs, stones or other obstacles between itself and the object of its alarm.  Similarly, the partridge builds its nest on the ground rather than having to fly up into trees or high areas.

The males, when they think themselves unobserved, are fond of challenging, or calling to each other in a loud ringing note.

Interesting types of Partridge

In some parts of Asia including china and the Philippines, the Bearded Partridge Perdix barbata, can be found and in Tibet, the  Tibetan Partridge, Perdix hodgsoniae, is a bird which lives on the high mountain slopes, sometimes 4000 meters above sea level. The Red-legged Partridge, found in Europe and Iberia, also known as the French Partridge, Alectoris rufa, was brought to the UK around the end of the 18th century, and is established particularly in Southern England.  Similarly to the grey Partidge, rather than fly, it often prefers to run, although it can and will certainly fly if it decides this is the best option. The French Partridge prefers a different habitat to the grey partridge, the French bird preferring clay-type soil and generally more infertile heathland, but even where the two species meet, the alleged antipathy between them is imaginary, and unquestionably in certain parts of the UK the "head of game" has been increased by the introduction of the "foreigner" (Game-preservers who object most strongly to the Red-legged Partridge are often not agreed on the exact grounds of their objection. One party will declare that it vanquishes the Grey Partridge, while the other holds that, though the latter, the "English" Partridge, is much vexed by the introduced species, it invariably beats off the "Frenchman"!).

Then there is the Greek Partridge, which is quite widely spread. It is a large bird of its kind, being much larger than the Grey Partridge, and may be known by its size, the dark red legs and beak, and the bold bars on the sides.

In North America the "Partridge-Hawk" is not actually a partridge itself but  Accipiter gentilis (the Goshawk), and the"Partridge-Pigeon" of Australia is a species of Geophaps (Bronze Wing).
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