Grey Partridge — a small wild bird, similar in size to a common domestic chicken. It has a muted gray-blue color with characteristic bright spots and a variegated pattern. This is a very common species of the partridge genus, which has an extensive habitat. Wild chickens, as they are often called, have very nutritious and tasty meat, thanks to which they are a favorite subject of hunting not only for humans, but also for a large number of wild animals, birds.
View origin and description
The gray partridge inhabits the whole of Eurasia and was even brought to America, where it took root very successfully. There are 8 subspecies of this bird, each of which differs in color, size, and ability to reproduce. According to scientists, the gray partridge is descended from some species of prehistoric birds. Even Neanderthals hunted them, as evidenced by the results of numerous excavations and serious studies. As an independent breed, the gray partridge was isolated several tens of millions of years ago on the territory of Northern Mongolia, Transbaikalia, and since then it has not changed much.
Video: Gray partridge
The gray partridge belongs to the pheasant family, order Galliformes. It rarely perches on trees and is therefore considered a ground bird. Despite the large number of people who want to feast on it, the strong influence of weather conditions on the survival of offspring, severe wintering without flying to warmer climes, its population remains quite numerous and quickly recovers after an unfavorable period.
Interesting fact: Even world culture has not bypassed this gray, inconspicuous bird. The myths of ancient Greece tell of the unseemly act of the proud architect Daedalus, when he threw his student off the cliff. But Athena turned the young man into a gray partridge and he did not break. According to myths, this is why partridges do not like to fly high, preferring to spend their whole lives on the ground.
Against her enemies, she has only two weapons: a variegated color that allows her to get lost in the foliage and the ability to run fast, only in emergency cases the gray partridge takes off to try to escape from a predator. Given the high taste and nutritional qualities of its meat, unpretentiousness, the bird is quite successfully grown in captivity, but with a special diet.
Appearance and features
The gray partridge has its rather memorable features, by which it is easy to recognize:
- small body size from 28 to 31 cm, wingspan 45-48 cm, weight from 300 to 450 grams;
- it is characterized by a rounded light gray abdomen with a bright spot in the form of a horseshoe, a small head with a dark beak, a well-developed gray back with characteristic variegated brown patches;
- the paws of this species are dark brown, the neck and the head is bright, almost orange. The plumage of females is not as elegant as that of males and often they are smaller;
- juveniles have dark and variegated longitudinal stripes on the sides of the body, which disappear as the bird grows.
The main task of the variegated color — disguise. Birds annually undergo a molt, which begins at the beginning with flight feathers, then passes to others and completely ends only towards the end of autumn. Due to the density of plumage and regular molting, partridges are able to live even in snow with moderate frost. The main part of all individuals living in nature do not carry out annual flights to warmer regions, but remain to winter in their place of permanent residence. In search of food, they dig holes in the snow up to 50 meters long, in especially cold periods they gather in them in whole groups, warming each other.
Where does the gray partridge live?
The gray-blue partridge is found almost everywhere throughout the southern and central parts of Russia, Altai, Siberia, in many European countries, including Germany, Great Britain, Canada and North America, and western Asia. The southern regions of Western Siberia, Kazakhstan are considered a natural habitat.
Her favorite places:
- dense forest, groves, forest edges;
- meadows with dense, tall grass, open area with bush islands, ravines;
- in some cases, the gray partridge willingly settles in marshy areas, but chooses dry islets with dense vegetation.
For the most comfortable conditions, she needs space and the presence of a large number of shrubs, tall grass, where you can easily hide, build a nest, and also find food. Partridge often settles near fields with crops of oats, buckwheat, and millet. It helps agriculture by pecking at harmful insects and various invertebrates that threaten crops.
Interesting fact: Having chosen a place to live, gray partridges never leave it. Here, throughout their entire lives, they build nests, raise offspring, feed, in turn, grown-up chicks will also remain in the same territory.
Now you know where the gray partridge lives. Let’s see what it eats.
What does the gray partridge eat?
Adults of this species feed mainly on plant foods: grass, plant seeds, berries, sometimes they supplement the diet with a small proportion of animal food. The growing offspring are fed exclusively by insects, worms, various larvae and spiders, as they grow, they gradually switch to the usual food for adults.
All bird food is obtained exclusively from the ground. In winter, the diet is very scarce, partridges have to tear the snow with their strong paws in order to get to the wild grass and its seeds. Hare holes often help them in this. Sometimes they can feed on agricultural fields with winter wheat, provided that the snow layer is not very large.
In particularly difficult winters, which usually come after rainy summers and autumns with poor harvests, they tend to move closer to their places of residence people fly to the feeders of livestock farms in search of stacks of straw, where grains of agricultural plants can be easily found. In spring, mainly succulent parts of plants mixed with insects are eaten. Individuals quickly recover after a hungry winter and are ready to hatch chicks by the beginning of summer.
When growing gray partridge at home, regular poultry food is not recommended. It is necessary to bring it as close as possible to the natural diet, otherwise they may die, refuse to lay eggs and hatch offspring.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
The gray partridge is considered to be predominantly a terrestrial bird. She is able to run fast and deftly maneuver in tall grass, between trees and shrubs. It takes off mainly in the presence of a serious danger and at the same time flaps its wings very loudly, flies a short distance low above the ground, and then lands again, misleading the predator. Sometimes it can fly short distances in search of food and at the same time it does not cross the boundaries of its usual territory, but this does not mean that it is not capable of long flights – they are also within its power.
While running, a wild chicken becomes strictly vertical, raising its head high, and during normal walking it moves slightly hunched over, looking around with a tense look. This is a very shy and quiet bird, it is quite rare to hear her voice. If only during mating games or during an unexpected attack, when they make a very loud sound, similar to hissing.
During the day, feeding partridges takes only 2-3 hours, the rest of the time they hide in the thickets of grass, clean their feathers and attend to all the rustles. The most active hours fall in the early morning and evening, the night is a time for rest.
Interesting fact: From regions with especially snowy winters, gray partridges head south when cold weather sets in, as under it is impossible to get to the food with a thick layer of snow. In other habitats, wild hens remain to winter and throughout their lives carry out only rare flights over short distances in search of food.
Social structure and reproduction
This species of partridge is monogamous. Couples among wild hens often last a lifetime. Both parents are equally involved in feeding and protecting offspring. Wild chickens lay eggs once a year at the very beginning of May, immediately from 15 to 25 pieces at a time. Partridge nests are built right on the ground, hiding them in the grass, under bushes and trees. During incubation, which lasts about 23 days, the female only occasionally leaves the nest to feed; during her absence, the male is close to the nest and sensitively monitors the situation around.
When a predator or other danger appears, they both try to divert all attention to themselves, gradually moving away from the masonry, and then, in the absence of a threat, they return. Males very often die during this period, sacrificing themselves for the safety of their chicks. Despite the high viability of the offspring, in especially rainy years, the entire brood may die at once, since the nests are located on the ground. The offspring hatch almost simultaneously and are literally immediately ready to follow their parents across the territory of residence at a distance of up to several hundred meters. The chicks already have plumage, see and hear well, learn quickly.
Interesting fact: A week after the birth of the gray partridge chicks are already able to take off, and after a couple of weeks they are ready for long-distance flights with their parents.
Gray partridges — social birds constantly interacting with each other. In the southern regions, they live in flocks of 25-30 individuals; in the northern regions, flocks number half as many birds. If one of the parents dies, then the second one completely takes care of the offspring; if two of them die, the chicks remain in the care of other families of partridges living nearby. In particularly severe winters, birds gather in close-knit groups and stay side by side in small snow dens, since it is easier to keep warm together, and with the onset of a thaw they again scatter to their secluded places.
Natural enemies of gray partridges
Natural Gray partridges have a lot of enemies:
- kites, gyrfalcons, owls and other birds of prey, even crows can hunt growing partridges;
- ferrets, foxes, arctic foxes and many other predatory inhabitants of forests and fields.
Due to such an abundance of enemies, a rare partridge lives up to 4 years of age, although under favorable conditions, many individuals are able to live up to 10 years. She has practically nothing to protect herself from predators, except for her camouflage colors. The gray partridge is considered easy prey. That is why the female and the male are so protective and guard their offspring. Only thanks to the high fecundity and rapid adaptation of the chicks, the population of wild chickens is not endangered.
In addition to natural enemies, the active use of various pesticides in agriculture also brings significant damage to the gray partridge population. If the flock lives near the settlement, then even cats and dogs can visit them to profit from young individuals. Hedgehogs, snakes easily break nests and feast on eggs. Particularly frosty and snowy winters also cause the death of a large number of partridges. During this period, they are very weakened due to insufficient food and become easy prey for predators.
Population and species status
The gray partridge is currently not in the Red Book of Russia, unlike its fellow white partridge, which is threatened with complete extinction. The status of this species is stable due to the very high fecundity and survival of offspring.
Since the late seventies, centuries have passed, its population began to decline everywhere, many attribute this to the chemicals and pesticides used to treat agricultural fields. In addition, rapidly growing cities occupy the habitual habitats of gray partridges, even ordinary yard dogs become a threat to their offspring. For example, in the Leningrad region today there are no more than one thousand individuals, in the Moscow region a little more. For this reason, the gray partridge is listed in the Red Book of these areas and several others in the central part of the country.
Ornithologists support the partridge population by regularly releasing specimens previously raised in enclosures into their natural habitat. In artificial conditions, they feel very comfortable and then, in nature, they quickly take root, give offspring. The forecasts are more than positive, according to experts, the population can be restored everywhere and the gray partridge is not threatened with complete extinction – nature itself has taken care of this species, rewarding it with high fertility rates.
The gray partridge, despite the fact that it is wild bird, is next to man for many thousands of years. It was a coveted trophy for the ancient hunters, and nothing has changed since then — it is also hunted, its meat is considered tasty and nutritious. It is also easily tamed, grown in enclosures.