We've been shooting pigeon all year and the grouse are proving as thrilling as ever. But with the 1 September upon us, it is time to turn our attention to partridge. Here are 9 fun partridge facts you didn't know
With 1 September upon us and the promise of the thrillingly unpredictable partridge, we cannot help but feel a tingle of excitement. Before we know it the season will be fully underway and there will be game filling the freezer and on the table every night. But do you know all of your fun partridge facts?
Partridge may be a pleasure to shoot, but they can be tricksy little blighters, so good technique is vital. Read partridge shooting tips. 12 top tips for the new season for our best advice. And it’s nearly time to start pulling out your favourite game recipes and try new ones. The 10 best partridge recipes will never leave you short of inspiration.
A decline in the grey partridges’ population has left them scarce, only to be found on traditional partridge manors and the opportunity to shoot wild English partridges is now only for a very lucky few. The smaller redleg partridge tends to be the main quarry of today. The redleg partridge was introduced in Britain in the 17th century from France to supplement the native grey. Here are The Field’s favourite partridge facts.
- In the UK, research into grey partridge ecology began in the early 1930’s.
- Male grey partridges are called ‘Cocks’, females are ‘Hens’.
- Grey partridges pair-up during February to breed and they breed during their first year. They stay together in family groups called ‘Coveys’.
- Grey partridge eggs take 25 days to incubate. The peak time for grey partridge hatching occurs around the third week of June, ‘Ascot Week’.
- The largest recorded grey partridge clutch laid by a single hen in Britain was 25, in Sussex in 1974. There hasn’t been a larger one recorded since then.
- For the 2-3 weeks after hatching, over 90% of a grey partridge chick’s diet needs to be protein-rich insects and other invertebrates, not seeds.
- Grey partridge call with a harsh ‘kerr-ik’. When they are alarmed it is a rising ‘rik-rik-rik-rik’.
- Spring dispersal of grey partridge pairs happens over short distances. Many partridges spend their entire lives in the same three or four fields.
- Despite a certain popular, festive song, grey partridges do not perch in pear trees – or any other tree.
THE DECLINE OF THE GREY PARTRIDGE
During the first half of the 1900s, there were over 1 million pairs of grey partridge. All of them were wild birds. The exact number remains unknown because there was no official counting but game-bag records show that the largest numbers were shot between 1870 and 1930. During this period around two million grey partridges were shot annually. All of the birds were wild with no rearing and releasing (such as modern pheasant) and this was year on year with a sustainable population.
There was an estimated population of 65,000 pairs between 1999 and 2012. This has since declined to the current estimated population of 43,000 pairs.
The original national target was to achieve 150,000 pairs by 2015, an attempt to double the 65,000 pairs recorded between 1999 and 2012. In 2010 the target was revised to 160,000 pairs by 2020. This target is not trying to recreate Edwardian partridge numbers, but to improve numbers to an achieveable level.