Photo: Jari Peltomaki/Vireo

Gray Partridge

Perdix perdix

Because of its popularity as a gamebird in Europe, the Gray Partridge was brought to North America as early as the 1790s, although it was not really established here until later. It has been most successful on the northern prairies, where it often does very well in farm country. Gray Partridges live in flocks, or coveys, at most times of year. Even where they are common, they often go unseen as they forage in the tall grass.
Conservation status North American population may be lower now than in 1950s, but still widespread, common in many areas.
Family Pheasants and Grouse
Habitat Cultivated land, hedgerows, bushy pastures, meadows. Mostly lives in grasslands and agricultural fields. Farmland is excellent habitat as long as hedgerows and shelterbelts are left between fields. In winter often in stubble fields, moving into edges of woodlots in harsh weather.
Because of its popularity as a gamebird in Europe, the Gray Partridge was brought to North America as early as the 1790s, although it was not really established here until later. It has been most successful on the northern prairies, where it often does very well in farm country. Gray Partridges live in flocks, or coveys, at most times of year. Even where they are common, they often go unseen as they forage in the tall grass.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • juvenile
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

Forages in coveys most of year, alone or in pairs in spring. Takes most food from ground. In winter, may burrow into snow to reach seeds on ground.


Eggs

Usually 12-18, sometimes up to 22 or more, sometimes fewer than 10. Fewer eggs in later clutches. Eggs buff, brown, or olive. Incubation begins after last egg is laid; until that time, eggs are covered with grass and weeds when female is away from nest. Incubation is by female only, 21-26 days, usually 25. Young: All eggs usually hatch on same day, and downy young leave nest together with parents. Both parents tend young and may lead them directly to food, but young feed themselves. Young can make short flights at less than 2 weeks, may be full-grown at 3-4 months, remain with parents through first winter.


Young

All eggs usually hatch on same day, and downy young leave nest together with parents. Both parents tend young and may lead them directly to food, but young feed themselves. Young can make short flights at less than 2 weeks, may be full-grown at 3-4 months, remain with parents through first winter.

Diet

Mostly seeds, also leaves and insects. Eats seeds from a wide variety of plants, including many grasses and weeds, also waste grain from crops such as wheat, oats, corn, sunflower. Seeds are most of diet in fall and winter; eats more green leaves in spring, insects in summer. Young chicks eat mostly insects.


Nesting

In courtship, male stands upright, flicks tail up and down, puffs out chest feathers to display dark belly patch and barred flanks; female approaches with bobbing movements of head. Nest site is on ground among dense cover, sometimes in open field but more often under hedgerow or shelterbelt or on brushy roadside. Nest (built by female, with male keeping watch nearby) is a shallow scrape lined with grass, leaves.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

North American populations apparently do not migrate. Some in eastern Europe may move south in particularly harsh weather.

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Migration

North American populations apparently do not migrate. Some in eastern Europe may move south in particularly harsh weather.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Hoarse kee-ah; when flushed, a rapid cackle.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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