The Grey Partridge is a bird that has suffered a drastic, if not calamitous fall in numbers over the past 25 years. The population has fallen by over 85% in Britain alone and is also falling in other parts of Europe.
It was once widespread in Britain, but the decline in numbers during the latter part of the 20th century has been astonishing. The cause of this fall in numbers can be linked to a number of factors, all human based. Neglected management and destruction of hedges that give cover to nesting birds, autumn sowing of cereal crops which removes stubble during the winter, the use of insecticides that reduces food levels and of herbicides that kill the plants on which the insects that formed the main diet of the young chicks depended.
The bird is smaller than a pheasant, plump with a small head and short legs. It is well camouflaged, with grey and brown streaky plumage. For most of the year this bird forms flocks that are known as `coveys` and where numbers allow these `coveys` can number up to 16 individuals. They pair up for the breeding season in late winter. If disturbed this bird is very reluctant to fly, instead it crouches down and relies on its camouflage for protection.
The photograph`s above were taken in an area known as Newborough Fen, a few miles from my house in Peterborough and is a reliable place for sightings of this lovely bird.