The genus Alectoris is a well-defined group of partridge species of the order Galliformes, allied with coturnix and snowcocks and also related to partridge-francolins ( Pternistes) and junglebush quail ( Perdicula ). They are known collectively as rock partridges. The genus name is from Ancient Greek alektoris a farmyard chicken.
These are non-migratory birds of dry, open and often hilly country. They nest in a scantily lined ground scrape laying up to 20 eggs. They feed on a wide variety of seeds and vegetation. Ants are a very important source of nutrition for the birds as are pine nuts, juniper berries and lichen
These are superficially corpulent birds, typically with a light brown or grey back, grey breast and buff belly. The face is white or whitish with a dark gorget. Their specialized flank coverts give them the appearance of being more rotund than they actually are. Alectoris exhibit rufous-streaked flanks and red legs armed with well-developed, ball hammer like spurs. When disturbed they run very rapidly, often uphill. When pressed, rock partridges take to the wing. Their wings are long and fairly sharp, shaped rather like those of the ptarmigan and spruce grouse, suggesting that the birds sustain themselves in flight over substantial distances to find food. This probably occurs most often during winter.
Introduced species and hybridisation
The chukar (Alectoris chukar) readily interbreeds with the red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa), and the practice of breeding and releasing captive-bred hybrids has been banned in various countries including the United Kingdom, as it is a threat to wild populations.
Species in taxonomic order
- Arabian partridge, Alectoris melanocephala
- Przevalski's partridge, Alectoris magna
- Rock partridge, Alectoris graeca
- Chukar partridge, Alectoris chukar
- Philby's partridge, Alectoris philbyi
- Barbary partridge, Alectoris barbara
- Red-legged partridge, Alectoris rufa
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