Grey partridge by Roger Wilmshurst (rspb-images.com)
Distribution map showing the relative abundance
of grey partridges in Britain and Ireland 1988–91
The grey partridge has a brick-red face, as opposed to the black-and-white face pattern on the red-legged partridge
The grey partridge can be found WHAT DO GREY PARTRIDGES NEED?
in most farming systems, except
predominantly improved Nesting habitat: grey partridges Summer food: grey partridge Winter food and cover: adult
FARMING FOR BIRDS
grasslands. The UK grey partridge nest on the ground in hedge chicks feed on insects, especially grey partridges feed mainly on
population fell by 87% between bottoms, grass margins, beetle caterpillars, beetles, bugs, ants seeds and shoots throughout the
1970 and 2003. This has been banks, cereals, game cover and and aphids. Breeding is more year. Places where they can find
caused mainly by the loss of nettle beds. Dead tussocky grass successful when there is plenty such food include weedy winter
insect food sources on farmland. left over from the previous year of this food available. Chicks take stubbles, rotational set-aside and
The loss of seed sources, loss of is particularly attractive as insects mainly from within the wild bird cover crops. They also
nesting habitat and predation nesting cover. crop, especially the headlands. require cover to conceal them
have also contributed. from predators, especially in
ANNUAL LIFECYCLE OF A GREY PARTRIDGE
January February March April May June July August September October November December
Main breeding season. They most often nest in
Coveys break up and territorial pairs need winter Coveys seek cover with plenty of seed food, such as
rough grass margins of arable crops. Chicks feed on
cover with plenty of seed food. wild bird seed mixtures or tall weedy stubbles.
insects, largely within the crop headland.
HOW CAN I ENCOURAGE GREY PARTRIDGES? PRIORITY ACTION
The grey partridge is a target species for
Nesting habitat Summer food Winter food Higher Level Stewardship.
• Avoid planting trees and do not • Create brood-rearing habitat with • Keep some tall cover (>20 cm) at Ensure that the farm provides nesting
increase the height of hedgerows plenty of insect food adjacent to all times, especially in February habitat, summer food and winter food.
above 2 metres in areas used by good nesting habitat. and March, close to or as part of
nesting partridges. suitable feeding areas, to reduce Create brood-rearing habitat with plenty of
SA ELS HLS An annual insect food adjacent to good nesting areas.
• SA ELS Create tussocky grass mixture of cereal and at least two Provide seed food through the winter with
buffer strips and field corners other crops can be established • ELS HLS Create areas of wild wild bird seed mixtures, over-wintered
around arable fields, especially (minimum 6 metres wide) as a bird seed mixture in the spring stubble or rotational set-aside.
fields with open boundaries, brood-rearing cover using the wild with a high proportion of cereal in
Get involved by joining The Game
ditches or short hedges. Avoid bird seed mixture options. the mix. Kale left for a second
Conservancy Trust’s Partridge Count
cutting all margins in the same year is good. Renew half the crops Scheme, and get the latest partridge
year. • ELS Undersown spring cereals each year, to provide some cover management and conservation
can boost insect numbers on in early spring every year. information (www.gct.org.uk/partridge).
• SA Cut non-rotational set-aside mixed farms.
on or just before 15 August and • SA ELS Leave fields of over-
leave 25% uncut each year to • Try to avoid using broad-spectrum wintered stubbles and rotational See also the RSPB advisory sheets on:
reduce the risk of nest loss. insecticides after 15 March. set-aside unmanaged for as long
• arable crops on livestock farms
as possible through the winter and
• beetle banks
• ELS Create beetle banks through • ELS Adopt conservation early spring. • buffer strips on cultivated land
the middle of arable fields larger headlands (especially the option • buffer strips on grassland
than 16 hectares. with no fertiliser as these offer • HLS Low-input cereal crops • conservation headlands
• grazed pasture
easy access for chicks) followed by over-wintered stubble • hay and silage meadows
• ELS In pastoral areas where grey HLS or low-input cereal crops to provide more seed food for birds • hedgerow management
partridges are still present, leave boost beneficial broad-leaved than conventional stubbles. • low-input cereals
6 m buffer strips of silage fields weeds and associated insects. • over-wintered stubble
• set-aside management
uncut and maintain or increase • ELS HLS In pastoral areas
• wild bird seed mixtures.
areas of arable cropping. • ELS HLS Maintain areas of where grey partridges are still
unimproved grassland or manage present, maintain or increase The Game Conservancy Trust also has
grassland with low-inputs to boost areas of arable cropping. factsheets on specific aspects of grey partridge
• Restoring grey partridges to your farm
• Providing nesting cover for wild grey partridges
• Providing brood-rearing cover for wild grey partridges
= all farms = arable and mixed farms = pastoral farms ELS = Entry Level Stewardship HLS = Higher Level Stewardship SA = Set-aside • Providing winter cover and food for wild
• Using predator control to increase wild grey
You can get further information on this and other ways of managing your farm for wildlife from: partridge numbers
• England: The ‘best’ ELS/HLS options for grey partridge
Agricultural Adviser, The RSPB, Farming and Wildlife Advisory conservation
UK Headquarters, The Lodge, Sandy, Group, NAC, Stoneleigh,
Bedfordshire SG19 2DL Kenilworth, Warwickshire The Game Conservancy Trust, Fordingbridge, For answers to all of your farm wildlife enquiries,
Tel: 01767 680551 CV8 2RX Tel: 024 7669 6699 Hampshire SP6 1EF Tel: 01425 652381 visit www.farmwildlife.info
www.rspb.org.uk/farming www.fwag.org.uk www.gct.org.uk
RSPB regd charity no 207076 223-1316-05-06