Gray Partridge Life History

Habitat

Habitat Grasslands

Gray Partridges use agricultural fields with hedgerows and grasslands year-round. In the winter when snow cover is heavy, they also forage in adjacent wooded areas.

Back to top

Food

Food Seeds

Gray Partridges primarily eat seeds and greens that they pick from the ground. Their diet includes seeds from wheat, barley, oats, corn, sunflower, foxtail, ragweed, and Russian thistle. Young partridges eat insects during the first few weeks after hatching. Adults also take insects during the summer.

Back to top

Nesting

Nest Placement

Nest Ground

Gray Partridges nest on the ground either in fields or along hedgerows and roadsides.

Nest Description

Female Gray Partridges make a scrape or shallow depression on the ground and line it with grasses or crop stalks.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:10-22 eggs
Number of Broods:1 brood
Egg Length:1.3-1.5 in (3.2-3.7 cm)
Egg Width:1.0-1.1 in (2.6-2.8 cm)
Incubation Period:21-26 days
Egg Description:

Unmarked buff, brown, or olive.

Condition at Hatching:

Eyes open and covered in down; able to leave the nest soon after hatching.

Back to top

Behavior

Behavior Ground Forager

Groups or coveys made up of adults and their offspring walk or run through fields and grasslands searching for seeds. They forage more frequently at dawn and dusk and rest in open cover or in crop stubble during the day. Gray Partridges are rather skittish birds, bursting into flight even when the disturbance is 60 feet away, unlike many other game birds that don’t flush until they are underfoot. When disturbed they explode into flight with rapid wingbeats, flying short distances, low to the ground. Gray Partridges are tolerant of their covey mates, but males may ruffle their neck feathers, stick out their breast, and flick their tail if a member of a different covey comes near, especially if they come too close to their mate. Gray Partridges form monogamous bonds typically with a member of a different covey. When coveys come together during courtship, males and females are more aggressive and may fight or chase other birds. Once pairs form, the female initiates courtship by bowing to the male with up-and-down head movements and by rubbing her neck against his. Gray Partridges have short lifespans and are frequently eaten by skunks, raccoons, foxes, Great Horned Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, Prairie Falcons, Northern Harriers, and domestic cats and dogs.

Back to top

Conservation

Conservation Low Concern

Gray Partridges are common throughout their native range, but are uncommon in North America. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey populations declined by nearly 2% per year from 1966–2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 60%. However, Gray Partridges are hard to detect on surveys, meaning that these population trend estimates may not be accurate. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 13 million (including the species native range in Eurasia). The species rates an 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, which means it is not on the Partners in Flight Watch List and is a species of low conservation concern. Since the 1950s, populations that were once widespread in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio have been lost and populations in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and New York have declined. Causes for these declines are not known, but may include predation, severe weather, and agricultural intensification. In Great Britain for example, Gray Partridge populations declined when farmers started removing hedgerows and increased pesticide use. Although hunted throughout its range, it is not as frequently hunted in North America as other game birds.

Back to top

Credits

Carroll, John P. 1993. Gray Partridge (Perdix perdix), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Dunne, P. (2006). Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski, Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

Back to top