MISSION STATEMENT : The Inch Island Partridge Project aims to create a suitable environment on Inch Island, Co. Donegal, where locally bred and released Grey Partridge and other threatened farmland birds can flourish in the wild. 

The Grey Partridge is one of Ireland’s rarest farm land birds. It became locally extinct due to changes in agricultural practices and a reduction in predator control. As a ground nesting bird they are particularly vulnerable to predation by Corvids and foxes. Their main diet is insects and they favor verge vegetation in arable farmland. 

This project uses the Grey Partridge as a totem and focus for the promotion and demonstration of best practice management for the conservation of Irelands threatened ground nesting farmland birds and where locally extinct, the re-establishment of naturally sustaining populations.  


The project is managed by Inch Island Gun Club with support from the Co. Donegal Game and Wildlife Council, The National Association of Regional Game Councils, The Heritage Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. 

Inch Island is a small agricultural based community on the south western shores of Lough Swilly, Co. Donegal. The project is hosted by the Bryce’s at Strahack Farm, Inch Island, a mixed sheep and arable farm which has been the location for numerous wildlife and agricultural demonstration projects since the early 1980’s.



Captive Breeding

Grey Partridge have been sourced for captive breeding and release into the wild from the North County Dublin Grey Partridge Project run by The National Association of Regional Game Councils with support from the Irish Grey Partridge Trust. These birds are a mixture of native birds from Borra Co. Offaly and introduced birds for the purpose of increasing the gene pool of the native population and reducing inbreeding deficiencies. 

The project aims to raise and release up to 10 coveys per year using a mix of partridges and bantams as parents and surrogate parents. 

In order to raise and release 10 coveys per year, 10 birds are kept in large pens from the previous year’s broods and matched with birds from an outside project. As the female partridge begins to lay she leaves eggs scattered throughout the pen. These eggs are gathered and given to a surrogate parent (a bantam hen) which is kept in a breeding pen with a chick run attached.

Once the Partridge hen makes a nest and lays in a regular spot she is left to brood the clutch and rear the young in as natural a form as possible. The chicks are fed crumb feed and later other feed stuffs to improve their chances of survival. 

Human interaction is kept to a minimum as this has been demonstrated to have an effect on survivor rates in the wild (Buckley et al.,2012). However the weather has a strong overall determination on the survivor rate to fledging with wet and cold weather taking a toll early on.


Habitat Management

Today Strahack farm cultivates 20-25 acres of arable crops per annum. This small area of arable land forms the nucleus of the projects habitat management area. 


Hedgerows are kept well managed but hedgerow banks are left to provide for suitable ground nesting sites for the birds.  Small rough corners and areas are left adjacent to the arable crop fields to provide insect banks, foraging and nesting habitat.

All along the field boundaries of these crops a 10m margin of dedicated ‘Game’ crop is sown and left unsprayed to provide for suitable insect density and foraging habitat for young chicks. These crops are sown at a low density to ensure sufficient space is available within the crop for the birds to move without significant hindrance which also reduces the likelihood of hypothermia (Kavanagh P. B 2001).

Feeders are placed at regular intervals in the game crop strips to allow the pen reared birds to be weaned into the wild and encourage them to remain in the predator exclusion zones.

Predator Control

The project has a major advantage over other
reintroduction projects in that, it's located on an island.

This provides for more effective control of the population of predators within the project area. Inch Gun Club undertakes the bulk of the predator control for the project. Particular concentration of effort is during February to July when the birds are at their most vulnerable; breeding, nesting and chick stage. A number of different techniques are used to control predators including :

Establishment of a predator exclusion zone:

The Heritage council funded the purchase of a double electric fence to exclude predators from the 20 acre arable area which forms the nucleus of the project on Strahack Farm. 


A comprehensive selection of legal traps which target the most common predators of Grey Partridge ( Fox and Corvids) are utilised to ensure the project area is kept relatively predator free.

Rats – Tunnel with Fen trap Mk5
Fox - Snares 
Corvids – Ladder trap and Larson Trap 

Traps are checked on a daily basis to ensure non-target species such as Raven, badger etc. are released with a minimum of harm. 


Lamping of foxes with .22 riffle and day time shooting of Corvids with shotgun is also undertaken to reduce the bulk of local predator populations in the early spring months.