A covey of Greys – 10,000 Birds

David Tomlinson

In case you are American then you’ll little question know Perdix perdix because the Grey Partridge, an launched sport chicken now widespread on the prairies of Canada and the northern states of the USA. Right here in England it’s the Gray Partridge (refined distinction), but it surely’s typically referred to as the English Partridge, to distinguish it from our different, non-native, partridge, the Redleg, recognized to most capturing males because the French Partridge. Conversely, many American hunters seek advice from the grey/gray chicken because the Hun, a shortened model of Hungarian, for Hungary was the supply of lots of the birds launched to the Americas. These are hardy birds – they must be to outlive a Canadian winter. The {photograph} beneath was taken by a digicam entice in Suffolk, England, in early March throughout a spell of freezing climate. The birds with the cock Partridge are Yellowhammers, plus a cock Pheasant.

I don’t know what number of Grey Partridges there are in America, however right here in Britain (and Europe, too) we wouldn’t thoughts if some have been despatched again to their dwelling nations, as this pleasant little sport chicken has declined catastrophically all through a lot of its vary over the past 50 years. You’d be fortunate immediately to seek out even a pair in Hungary, whereas in keeping with the European Breeding Atlas 2, it “has nearly utterly disappeared from S, central and W Italy, Switzerland, Norway and W Austria”. EBA2 goes on to say that the “Gray Partridge has undergone one of many steepest declines of all European farmland birds”.

There are only a few areas left the place it nonetheless thrives. It’s, or was, significantly widespread alongside the north shore of the Black Sea, with Crimea a stronghold. How the warfare is affecting it no one appears to know. Northern France is one other space with a powerful inhabitants. Right here the birds thrived through the First Phrase Battle, regardless of the ditch warfare that befell round them, giving hope that the Crimean partridges would possibly survive Putin’s warfare. 

Cock gray partridge

In England it was as soon as considered one of our most acquainted and widespread farmland birds. An concept of its former abundance could be gauged from the report bag of two,119 ( all wild birds) shot in Lincolnshire on 3 October 1952. Right this moment the Gray Partridge stays on the quarry checklist, however comparatively few are shot. Satirically, the strongest populations could be discovered on capturing estates the place landowners (and their gamekeepers) put nice effort into taking care of them. There isn’t any higher place to search for these pleasant birds than the Earl of Leicester’s Holkham property in North Norfolk, and the adjoining Sandringham property that belongs to King Charles III.

Although (sadly) I don’t personal an amazing property, my dwelling within the Suffolk Brecks can be in a great space for Greys. I see them commonly all year long, normally once I’m out strolling my spaniel. This 12 months I noticed my native pair many occasions in Could, although in June it was solely the cock chicken that I encountered. He typically flew only a brief distance earlier than dropping again into cowl. I guessed that his mate was shut by, incubating her eggs. A little bit worrying was a scarcity of sightings in August and September, however in late October a covey of 10 birds appeared within the area behind my backyard, affirmation that they’d bred efficiently. 

Gray Partridges are farmland birds, however they don’t like trendy intensive farming

Gray Partridges are birds of the open fields, however often they’ll discover completely different habitats, for on a number of events they’ve ventured into my giant however hedged backyard. The primary time I noticed them right here was precisely three years in the past, when a covey of six spent a while prospecting my garden. Final 12 months a pair appeared a number of occasions in late January: my image (beneath) was taken from my research, by way of a double-glazed window. On the time I used to be having issues with a Mole, however I used to be ready to forgive him his hills as they have been clearly fashionable with the Partridges. 

Partridge on a Mole hill
A covey within the backyard

At shut vary (comparable to by way of the kitchen window) you may actually admire the exquisitely refined plumage of those pleasant birds, with their splendidly vermiculated feathers. The orange-brown head, a function of each sexes, is charming, whereas the cock could be recognized by the sturdy horseshoe marking on his breast.

A juvenile in late August

Hen Gray Partridges have a severe declare to fame, for they lay the largest clutches of any of the world’s 10,000 birds. In England clutches of 15 or 16 eggs are ordinary, however clutches of as many as 28 eggs, all laid by a single hen, have been recorded. Such huge clutches are important for survival, as there’s hardly a predator round that gained’t eat an egg or chick given half an opportunity. Right here within the Brecks survival charges are usually good, as Crimson Foxes, arguably probably the most severe predator of those birds, are scarce. The native capturing estates hold the variety of Foxes underneath management, which is sweet information if you’re a Partridge.

Look fastidiously and also you would possibly spot a Gray Francolin

On a latest journey to India I used to be delighted to see a pair of Gray Francolins, These birds are related in form, measurement and colouring to the Gray Partridge, and till just lately they have been generally called simply that. The 2 species are solely distantly associated, for Gray Francolins are true francolins, therefore the title Francolinus pondicerianus. They’re widespread all through a lot of lowland India. The Gray Partridge has simply two different species in its genus, the relatively related Daurian Partridge which happens in northern China and Russia, and the Tibetan Partridge. No prizes for guessing the place the latter is discovered.

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