The Grey Partridge
(Perdix perdix), is a gamebird in the pheasant family
The preferred habitat of the Grey Partridge is low-intensity arable crops and rough field margins, a habitat which has undergone significant change in modern times. The bird has become locally extinct due to modern changes in agricultural practices and a reduction in predator control. As a ground nesting bird they are particularly vulnerable to predation. They favor verge vegetation in arable farmland for nest sites and the main diet of the young chicks are insects. The birds are well known for their distinctive lifecycle which has a number of distinct milestones.
The bird’s pair up and disperse in spring time (February and March) with young males or cocks leaving the ‘covey’ to find non-related birds. Nests are made from local sources with grass species the dominant material. A suitable nest site is chosen, preferably in a managed hedgerow bank adjacent to a cereal crop. The hen lays an average clutch size of 15 eggs over 21 days with incubation taking an average of 25 days.
Although the chicks are quite mobile from the moment of birth and as a group they usually leave the nest site soon after hatching, they are regarded as being particularly vulnerable to predation and wet weather during their first two weeks. . Both parents’ guide the chicks to insect-rich areas and help to control the chicks body temperature by brooding regularly during the day and night.
As the chicks mature they switch to a more plant-based diet and the covey will remain together until dispersal the next spring.
The birds group together during the Autumn and winter in ‘Coveys’, which are usually made up of a breeding pair, that year’s young and some non-breeding adult birds.