Partridge

Last updated: September 11, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

Long-lost civilizations have immortalized male partridges in art, depicting them as a symbol of fertility.

Partridge Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Galliformes
Family
Phasianidae

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Partridge Conservation Status

Partridge Locations

Partridge Locations

Partridge Facts

Prey
Small insects and invertebrates
Main Prey
Insets
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Family units
Fun Fact
Long-lost civilizations have immortalized male partridges in art, depicting them as a symbol of fertility.
Most Distinctive Feature
Deforestation
Wingspan
20 to 22 inches
Incubation Period
2.5 weeks
Age Of Independence
3 months
Age Of Fledgling
7 weeks
Habitat
Forests, grasslands, lowlands, and agricultural areas
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Favorite Food
Seeds
Common Name
Partridge
Origin
Europe
Number Of Species
57
Location
Europe, Asia, Africa, The Middle East, North America
Average Clutch Size
-1
Age of Molting
7 weeks

Partridge Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • White
  • Dark Brown
  • Cream
  • Chestnut
  • Light Grey
  • Dark Grey
  • Multi-colored
  • Black-Brown
  • Sandy
  • Grey-Brown
Skin Type
Feathers
Top Speed
34 mph
Lifespan
2 to 6 years
Weight
0.75 pounds
Length
11 to 13 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
3 months
Age of Weaning
1 month
Aggression
High

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The partridge is a ground-dwelling bird with over 40 various species from 14 genera. They are game birds, often hunted for food or used as a target for practicing shooting.

Partridges are adaptable and thrive in various locations across the globe. They are found in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In addition, several species were relocated to North America when the British discovered the new world.

These birds have considerable populations in various areas across Europe and prefer habitats with grasslands, lowlands, and agricultural regions.

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They share similar characteristics with pheasants and quails. Out of the 40 species, the red-legged partridge and gray partridges are the most common.

The IUCN lists most members of the partridge family as Least Concerned. But, unfortunately, the red-legged partridge is listed as Near Threatened on their Red List.

Three Incredible Partridge Facts!

  • Long-lost civilizations have immortalized male partridges in art, depicting them as a symbol of fertility.
  • Partridges build their nests on the ground and generally hide them amongst dense vegetation.
  • They are native to Europe, Africa, and Asia; however, several species occur in North America because partridges were brought over to the New World for sport hunting.

7 Different Types of Partridges

There are 40 different species of partridges, each unique in its own way. Below are seven of the most well-known partridges.

1. Red-Legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)

The red-legged partridge is also known by another name: the French Partridge. It derived this name to help distinguish it from the Gray or English partridge.

They are stealthy, padded, round birds who inhabit areas in the United Kingdom. Their habitat of choice is lowland and farmland regions of southwestern Europe.

These birds originated from France, Spain, and Italy, but locals transported them to England and Wales for sport hunting purposes.

Adults are sandy brown with a pinkish belly. Other distinctive characteristics include extravagant black streaking on their gorget (colored patch on throat), black flank bars, and rufous-streaked flanks.

Red-legged partridges have red beaks, and their pink legs stand out against the vegetation of their natural habitats.

Red-legged partridges tend to flock together in groups of 20 and are often seen waddling over grassy fields and pastures. They are well camouflaged against the vegetation because of their sandy brown coloring, making them almost invisible.

As with many members of the partridge family, they are monogamous and prefer to live with a single partner. They will simultaneously produce two broods, which helps increase their numbers, even though they are huge targets as game birds.

2. Gray Partridge (Perdix perdix)

The gray partridge is a small bird belonging to the pheasant family. Their backs are brown, and they have grey chests and flanks. Gray partridges have white bellies with a significant chestnut-brown horseshoe marking.

Juveniles have different coloring and are mostly yellow-brown but lack distinctive face patterns and markings on their bellies.

They are distributed across most of Europe and western Asia. Their preferred habitat is shrublands, grasslands and steppes, and agricultural areas with small fields.

3. Rock Partridge (Alectoris graeca)

The rock partridge forms part of the pheasant family, Phasianidae. They are considered game birds and belong to the order Galliformes.

They originate from southern Europe and only occur in the Alps and Apennines. Sicily and the Balkans. Rock partridges share very similar characteristics with their eastern cousins, the Chukar and A.chukar.

4. Black Wood Partridge (Melanoperdix nigra)

The black wood partridge also goes by the name black partridge, belonging to the family Phasianidae. They are small birds originating from South Asian countries such as:

In addition, they used to occur in Singapore but have long since been extinct in the area. These crafty birds inhabit densely forested regions.

Black wood partridges population has been steadily decreasing over the years, and only 15,000 to 30,000 individuals are believed to be left in the wild. The biggest threat contributing to their demise is rapid deforestation.

5. Chestnut-bellied Partridge (Arborophila javanica)

The chestnut-bellied partridge goes by many names like the chestnut-bellied hill-partridge and Javan hill-partridge. They are small, only measuring 11 inches in length.

In addition, they sport a rufous crown, nape, grey breast, red legs, brown wings, a black mask, throat, bill, and red facial skin. Both sexes have similar characteristics, but the juveniles have a whitish face with a reddish-brown bill. The chestnut-bellied partridge inhabits hills and west and east Java mountain forests in Indonesia.

Males build domed nests from long grass, and females can lay up to four eggs, which help keep their population strong, and they are listed as Least Concern on IUCN’s Redlist.

6. Crqested Wood Partridge (Rollulus roulroul)

The crested wood partridge is also known as the red-crowned wood partridge, green wood partridge, roul-roul, crested wood partridge, and greed wood quail. They are game birds belonging to the pheasant family Phasianidae. In addition, they are the only members of the genus Rollulus.

Crested wood partridges occur in the lowland rainforests in southern Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra, south Myanmar, and Borneo.

To create their nests, they scrape the ground and line the hollowed area with leaves. Next, they conceal their nests under a heap of leaf litter. Females typically lay between 5 to 6 white eggs, which they incubate for 18 days.

Parents help their young eat with bill-to-bill feeding instead of making them peck the ground for food, which is unusual for galliform species.

7.      Stone Partridge (Ptilopachus petrosus)

The stone partridge is a large bird that forms part of the New World quail family. They are predominantly brown and hold raised tails. These bulky birds inhabit scrubland and lightly wooded areas, typically near rocks in countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, and Gambia.

Due to genetic evidence, stone partridges are only one of two members of the genus Ptilopachus. The other member is Nahan‘s partridge.

They are small and dark with erect and thick tails. Their legs are red, and they have bare red skin around their eyes. In addition, there are fine markings on their heads and breasts.

Plumage differs due to regional variations but is generally darker in areas with moister and lighter in drier regions.

The stone partridge usually lives in pairs or small groups taking preference for dense grassy understories, savannas, and rocky habitats.

Stone partridges communicate with a series of loud “wheets” notes that become louder with every call. These sounds are generally duets by a pair.

Where to Find the Partridge

Partridges are highly adaptable and inhabit most of Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and North America.

Habitat differs from species to species, with some nesting on steppes or agricultural areas, while others inhabit dense vegetation like thick forests. They build nests on the ground with long grass and are considered omnivores.

Nests

Partridges are one of many bird species living entirely on the ground. Other ground-dwelling birds include:

While these birds might seem strange because they don’t nest high up, it’s actually not that surprising since birds evolved from a particular branch of dinosaurs. These prehistoric beasts started to grow feathers and had many bird-like qualities way before they could fly.

In addition, scientists uncovered various dinosaur nests, which were all found on the ground, very similar to the partridge.

56 species of partridges are ground-dwellers and use their short but strong legs as tools to dig holes for nests and food. The species generally run fast but will burst into flight if they sense danger is near.

Partridge Taxonomy

Partridges are members of the Phasianidae family, who are non-migratory birds forming part of the Old World group. They belong to the order Galliformes, which consists of heavy-bodied, ground-dwelling birds that include:

These birds are essential in their various ecosystems because they are seed dispersers, and as predators, they keep various insect populations under control. Humans enjoy these birds because they use them for meat, eggs, and sport hunting.

The family Phasianidae consists of ground-dwelling birds and includes:

  • Pheasants
  • Partridges
  • Junglefowl
  • Chickens
  • Turkeys
  • Old World Quails
  • Peafowls

This family is vast and includes 185 species divided into 54 genras. In addition, the family is made up of very popular game birds.

Size and Appearance

Partridges generally measure 11 to 13 inches in length and sport a wingspan of 20 to 22 inches. So, to put things into perspective, they are ¼ the size of a turkey.

The partridge looks very similar to pheasants and quails. Their feathers are soft and poofy, making them appear larger than they actually are and have small heads.

Coloration differs depending on species but is typically reddish-brown, gray, or black. Gray partridges have white bellies, gray flanks, and a brown back.

However, red-legged partridges stand out because of the red ring around their eyes. Their backs are covered in brown feathers, with a gray stomach and cream-colored neck.

But, males differ because of the chestnut markings on their chests. These markings resemble a shape of a horseshoe.

Gray partridge walking on sand
Gray partridges have gray chests and flanks.

Voodison328/Shutterstock.com

Habitat, Behavior, and Reproduction

Habitat

These popular birds inhabit lowlands and agricultural regions where they build their nests in the ground. However, species like the Hainan partridge live in woodlands or densely forested areas.

Behavior

Partridges are non-migratory and live in small groups called conveys, which consist of a breeding pair and their chicks. Once the chicks reach maturity, they leave their parents and start to form their own groups.

Diet

These ground-dwelling birds are omnivores but typically live on a herbivorous diet. Their diet consists of:

Reproduction

Partridges generally mate for life and live in monogamous pairs. Both males and females take turns protecting their families. They become incredibly aggressive towards other animals who threaten their covey.

Nesting usually takes place on the ground in grasslands or agricultural areas. The number of eggs laid depends on the species. For example, Red-legged partridges can lay up to 16 eggs per clutch. They will cover the eggs with weeds, mud, and grass to protect their young.

The chicks will begin to hatch two and half weeks after being laid. And after just one week, the chicks will start to come out of the nest independently. After that, however, they will stay with their parents until they are sexually mature at 3 months old.

Molting

Molting differs between the various species. For example, gray partridges plumage is basically complete after a month. However, the tail takes up to 6 weeks. Their post-juvenile body molt begins 4 to 5 weeks with the inner primary. But, the body molt only starts between 6 to 7 weeks with the flanks and back feathers.

Lifespan

Partridges do not have a long lifespan; on average, they live for about 2 years. However, some species like gray partridges can live for 4 years. In addition, the red-legged partridge’s lifespan is around 5 to 6 years.

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

Partridges make a good meal for many predators. They need to stay clear of animals like:

There are 56 species of partridges, and only 37 of them are listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation. However, 43 species’ populations are gradually decreasing.

For example, the gray partridge is listed as Least Concern, but sadly, their population significantly sdecreased by 91% between 1967 and 2010. The reason behind this catastrophic decline is threats like pesticides and herbicides, which mainly affects the chicks.

Sadly, the Sichuan partridge that inhabits China’s south-central Sichuan Province is endangered with only 1000 individuals left in the wild. Another threat to the all the species is habitiat loss, mainly due to illegal logging.

Population

Because partridges have so many different species, it’s hard to calculate their population numbers. However, there is data on population sizes of specific species like the Red-legged partridge, that has 9,950,000 to 13,700,000 individuals in the wild.

Once upon a time, the gray partridge was the most common bird in the countryside of the UK. But, due to excessive hunting, their population has significantly decreased by 80% in the last 30 years.

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About the Author

I am a 33-year-old creative and professional writer from South Africa. Wildlife is one of my greatest passions and led me to become the writer I am today. I was very blessed to work with an abundance of wildlife (mainly big cats) and captured my unique experiences in writing. But I wanted to take it further, and I ventured into the freelancing world. Now, I get to spend my days writing about animals; what could be better?

Partridge FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is a partridge?

The partridge is a ground-dwelling bird with over 40 various species from 14 genera. They are game birds, often hunted for food or used as a target for practicing shooting.

Can you eat a partridge?

Yes, Partridges are part of people’s diets in many cultures.They are one of the most popular game birds in the world.

Are partridges the same as quails?

Partridges and quails form part of the same family but are not the same species.

Can the partridge fly?

Yes, they can fly but tend to stay firmly on the ground unless threatened.

Do partridges make good pets?

No, partridges are wild birds and will not make good pets.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partridge#Range_and_habitat
  2. Biology Dictionary, Available here: https://biologydictionary.net/partridge/
  3. Beauty of Birds, Available here: https://www.beautyofbirds.com/partridges.html
  4. Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Available here: https://www.gwct.org.uk/game/advice/how-to-sex-and-age-grey-partridges/
  5. Birds of the World, Available here: https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/species/grypar/cur/introduction
  6. eBird, Available here: https://ebird.org/species/stopar1

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