Grey partridge

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Grey partridge
Perdix perdix (Marek Szczepanek).jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Genus: Perdix
P. perdix
Binomial name
Perdix perdix

8, see text

Verbreitungskarte Rebhuhn.jpg
Range of P. perdix
  Native range
  Introduced range

Tetrao perdix Linnaeus, 1758

The grey partridge (Perdix perdix), also known as the gray-legged partridge,[2] English partridge, Hungarian partridge, or hun, is a gamebird in the pheasant family Phasianidae of the order Galliformes, gallinaceous birds. The scientific name is the Latin for "partridge", and is itself derived from Ancient Greek perdix.[3]


Uncommon grey partridge in Alberta, Canada[4]
Grey partridge on 1957 postage stamp of the Soviet Union
Egg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

The grey partridge is a rotund bird, brown-backed, with grey flanks and chest. The belly is white, usually marked with a large chestnut-brown horse-shoe mark in males, and also in many females. Hens lay up to twenty eggs in a ground nest. The nest is usually in the margin of a cereal field, most commonly winter wheat.


  • Length: 11.8–13.0 in (30–33 cm)
  • Weight: 13.6–17.6 oz (390–500 g)
  • Wingspan: 20.9–22.1 in (53–56 cm)

The only major and constant difference between the sexes is the so-called cross of Lorraine on the tertiary coverts of females—these being marked with two transverse bars, as opposed to the one in males. These are present after around 16 weeks of age when the birds have moulted into adult plumage. Young grey partridges are mostly yellow-brown and lack the distinctive face and underpart markings. The song is a harsh, high-pitched kieerr-ik, and when disturbed, like most of the gamebirds, it flies a short distance on rounded wings, often calling rick rick rick as it rises.

They are a seed-eating species, but the young in particular take insects as an essential protein supply. During the first 10 days of life, the young can only digest insects. The parents lead their chicks to the edges of cereal fields, where they can forage for insects.


Widespread and common throughout much of its range, the grey partridge is evaluated as "of Least Concern" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, it has suffered a serious decline in the UK, and in 2015 appeared on the "Birds of Conservation Concern" Red List.[6] This partridge breeds on farmland across most of Europe and across the western Palearctic as far as southwestern Siberia and has been introduced widely into Canada, United States, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.[7] A popular gamebird in vast areas of North America, it is commonly known as "Hungarian partridge" or just "hun". They are also a non-migratory terrestrial species, and form flocks in numbers of up to 30 outside of the breeding season.

Status and conservation[edit]

Though common and not threatened, it appears to be declining in numbers in some areas of intensive cultivation such as the United Kingdom, probably due to a loss of breeding habitat and insecticides harming insect numbers, an important food source for the species. Their numbers have fallen in these areas by as much as 85% in the last 25 years. Efforts are being made in the United Kingdom by organizations such as the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust to halt this decline by creating conservation headlands.

In 1995, it was nominated a Biodiversity action plan (BAP) species. In Ireland, it is now virtually confined to the Lough Boora reserve in County Offaly where a recent conservation project has succeeded in boosting its numbers to around 900, raising hopes that it may be reintroduced to the rest of Ireland.[8]


There are eight recognized subspecies:

Perdix perdix hispaniensis - MHNT
  • P. p. italica (Hartert, 1917) – Italian grey partridge, supposedly extinct, now reintroduced[9]
  • P. p. sphagnetorum (Altum, 1894) – found in the moors of the northern part of the Netherlands and northwest Germany


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Perdix perdix". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22678911A85929015. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22678911A85929015.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ Hunter Adair (2000). A Guide to the Countryside: Wild Animals and Birds. Abbey Press. ISBN 978-1-902756-04-2. Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  3. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 297. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  4. ^ Sibley, David Allen (2003). The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America (A Chanticleer Press ed.). Knopf. p. 122. ISBN 0-679-45121-8.
  5. ^ "Gray Partridge Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology". Retrieved 2020-09-26.
  6. ^ "BoCC4 Red List" (PDF). Birds of Conservation Concern. Retrieved 2015-12-25.
  7. ^ Long, John L. (1981). Introduced Birds of the World. Agricultural Protection Board of Western Australia. pp. 21–493.
  8. ^ Lee, George (5 September 2019). "Grey Partridge population on the increase". RTE. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  9. ^ "Welcome back Perdix perdix italica!". Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale. Retrieved 2021-12-13.

External links[edit]