Grey Partridge

Perdix perdix

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The grey partridge is well known due to the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “Puss in Boots”. They are difficult to spot in their natural habitats. They are veritable masters of camouflage, using every element of the landscape as cover. When threatened, they lie flat on the ground and only fly away after a considerable time has passed. The grey partridge is part of the galliformes order of birds. A strong and rotund bird with short legs and short, rounded wings and tail, it is adept at migrating short distances, often involving flying close to the ground and is also fleet of foot. Its plumage is a camouflaged grey-brown, the head a rufous in colour. It has prominent cortical mottled retrices with a noticeable barred pattern, the outer feathers are a striking rufous colour. The male has a noticeably dark brown, horseshoe-shaped patch on its belly. The female belly is either a creamy white or a small, brown patch. Outside of the breeding season, grey partridges live in family flocks (“coveys”) of up to fifteen birds together. In winter, they form flocks of up to twenty-five birds. During the mating season, the flocks disband and the birds become territorial, whereby the males try to lure the females from another covey. During this time, the birds engage in ritualised aggression. The grey partridge lays a clutch of 10 to 20 eggs in a ground nest insulated with plant parts. They choose field margins, road verges and hedges as nesting sites. After 25 days, the precocial chicks hatch and are independent after five weeks. They mostly remain within the family group during the winter months. A seed-eating species, the grey partridge also subsists on wild herbs, cereals, berries, insects and molluscs. Their range is expansive, covering Europe and Asia where they reside in richly variegated landscapes, such as steppe, heath, fallow and agricultural grasslands. They were introduced to North America by humans. In accordance with § 44 of the Federal Nature Conservation Law (BNatSchG), grey partridges are a protected and critically endangered species. Grey partridge populations have undergone a significant decline since the 1970s. This is due to land consolidation, the loss of landscape diversity, overused cultural landscapes and the increase in intensive, monoculture farming.

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