Essex Biodiversity Project
Identification - the Grey partridge is the only native partridge in the British Isles. The other common partridge is the red-legged partridge. It is a compact bird (length 28 - 32cm) with a rounded body and small compact head. It has an orange - brown face and throat, ash grey breast, blackish-brown belly patch and rusty red on the tail tip. Its wings and back are flecked grey and brown. Both male and female birds look similar. (Photo Bob Glover)
General ecology - the main habitats are cereal field margins, arable land, ancient or species rich hedgerows, heaths and moorland. It is a widespread bird but has declined by 50% between 1969 and 1990. It has a patchy distribution in Essex but more common along the Thames, Colne & Hamford water, Dengie and Epping.
Surveying tips - the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust record grey partridges alongside red partridges with the view of good population levels for game. These methods have been adapted to record the grey partridge only. Spring pair (male & female) count records can be done up to the middle of March and the autumn brood (Chicks) count is done until mid September before the young have moulted (lost their downy feathers and are growing their adult feathers). Both counts can be done two hours after dawn and two hours before dusk when the birds are feeding. It is preferable to do the surveying in calm, dry weather. A minimum plot (area) of 1km square should be surveyed where possible and each bird marked on the map for the spring count and for the autumn count, each covey plus number of chicks.
The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust encourages interested farmers and other landowners to monitor and record the grey partridges on their land as part of the national Partridge Count Scheme in return for management advice and help.
For further information about the Grey Partridge, see The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and the RSPB websites.