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Partridges

Partridges are species of fowl in the family Phasianidae, which also includes the pheasants, chickens, turkeys, grouse, peafowl, francolins, and quail. Partridges occur naturally in Eurasia, but they have been introduced as game birds to other places as well, including North America.

Partridges are medium-sized, stocky birds with short, rounded wings, a short tail, and a short, stout bill, in which the upper mandible overhangs the tip of the lower. The legs are short and stout, and the feet are strong and armed with sharp claws, useful for digging and scratching while foraging for food on the ground.

Partridges eat a wide variety of seeds, fruits, leaves, and buds, as well as invertebrates, which are captured on the ground. The chicks mostly eat arthropods, switching to a diet richer in plant foods after much of their initial growth has been completed.

Partridges build their nests in a concealed place on the ground, and they may lay as many as 15 eggs. These are incubated only by the female, which also has the sole responsibility for raising the chicks. Baby partridges are precocious, and can walk, run after their mother, and feed themselves soon after hatching. Partridges sexually mature at an age of about one year. During the nonbreeding season, partridges assemble into flocks, which forage and roost together.

Like most other species in their family, partridges are gamebirds, and are hunted as food and for sport. As a result, partridges are economically important, but they are also vulnerable to over-hunting, which can severely reduce the sizes of their populations. It is critical that these birds be conserved by careful regulation of hunting-related predation, as well as by management and preservation of their necessary habitat.

The Hungarian, European, or grey partridge (Perdix perdix) is a wide-ranging species that is native from the British Isles, through Europe and Russia, to Mongolia. Partridges. Photograph by David Stoeklein. Stock Market. Reproduced by permission.
However, this species has been introduced as a gamebird well beyond its natural range. The grey partridge is now an established species in North America, occurring in various places from southern Canada to the northern and middle United States.

The chukar (Alectoris chukar) is native to mountainous habitats of Europe and Asia. This species has been introduced as a gamebird to drier, open mountain habitats in southwestern Canada and the northwestern United States.

Bill Freedman

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