[order] Galliformes | [family] Phasianidae | [latin] Perdix perdix | [UK] Grey Partridge | [FR] Perdrix grise | [DE] Rebhuhn | [ES] Perdiz Pardilla | [IT] Starna | [NL] Patrijs

Patrijs determination

copyright: M. Mark Swan

The Gray Partridge is a chunky bird, measuring approximately 13 inches. It is grayish-brown in color overall and has a gray bill. Both male and female have reddish bars and pale streaks crosshatched along their sides, and chestnut outer tail feathers. The male has an orange face and a dark patch on his belly in contrast to the female, which has a pale face and often lacks the belly patch.
Most of the year, Gray Partridges are found in small groups, although in the spring they are typically found in pairs or alone. Young remain with their parents through their first winter. They often forage in tall grasses and can be difficult to spot.

Gray Partridges live in flat, agricultural land with shrubby cover for nesting. They use steppe and cultivated areas in the steppe zones and can be found in some Ponderosa pine forests. Gray Partridges benefit from traditional farming practices, which maintain hedgerows and shelterbelts between fields

This partridge is originally a bird of the steppe, from Central Europe to Mongolia. It has become adapted to cultivation, and has consequently colonised much of Western Europe, from the Mediterranean regions to 65°N in Scandinavia. Important populations survive in some regions, e.g. in France, but in most areas this species is undergoing a strong decrease following changes in agricultural practices. In some regions it is even on the verge of extinction, and two races have been included in Annex I. The race hispaniensis is restricted to the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula and the northern slopes of the Pyrenees. Its population is estimated at 2000-6000 breeding pairs, and is decreasing because of habitat changes, over-hunting and disturbance by tourism. The race italica is limited to central and southern Italy. It is currently very rare and probably on the verge of extinction. On top of the problems affecting the other races, it is threatened genetically also by introduction in its breeding area of nominate birds
Gray Partridges were first introduced in North America in the early 1900s. Today their population fluctuates, perhaps due to continued introductions, and, although they are hunted, predation and weather appear to have the greatest impact on their numbers.

Foraging on the ground, Gray Partridges typically eat seeds, waste grain, leaves, and insects. In the fall and winter, their diet of seeds sometimes requires them to burrow into the snow to feed. In the spring they take advantage of green leaves and in the summer, insects. When first hatched, the young eat mainly insects.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 kmē. It has a large global population estimated to be 2,500,000-5,000,000 individuals. Global population trends have not been quantified; there is evidence of a population decline, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Gray Partridges produce some of the largest known clutches of any bird, laying between 10-20 eggs per brood. They typically nest on the ground among the dense cover of a hedgerow, shelterbelt, or brushy roadside, although they have been known to nest in the open. While the female builds the nest, a shallow scrape lined with grass and leaves, the male stands guard. The female incubates her large clutch, and both parents tend the hatchlings. Soon after hatching, the young leave the nest, following their parents to food sources and then feeding themselves.

Partridges are non-migratory except in most northern range, where movements south are known. East European population may move south due to harsh wheather conditions.