Range & Status
Europe and western Asia, but decline reported in many parts of world range; in Britain and Ireland there were 500,000 pairs during 1968 to 1972 but the population had dropped to 150,000 pairs by 1990 and 70,000 by 2000.
Cornwall: formerly widespread, although distinctly local. Range has contracted and become fragmented since 1960 and the decline has accelerated since 1980. By 2006 virtually gone from the south-east, but sporadic reports persist perhaps as a result of introductions. Now confined to mid Cornwall where there are probably less than ten pairs. Extinction in Cornwall is imminent. Isles of Scilly: absent.
Habitat & Ecology
Well drained rolling arable farmland, with wide weedy field edges and stretches of
overgrown hedges for shelter.
Changes in agriculture have been instrumental in the decline, most important being the loss of weedy field borders, liberal use of pesticides and herbicides, and loss of hedgerows. Many hundreds of alien Alectoris partridges (Red-legged, Chukar and hybrids) have been released for shooting purposes in Cornwall; these are potential competitors with the native species but luckily seem not to have become established.
The farming community should be made aware of the decrease. Core areas could be located within Cornwall and advice on partridge management offered. Partridge populations can be maintained, with negligible difference in crop yield, if a 6m. strip is left unsprayed around field edges. Protected by the Games Act (open season: 1st September to 1st February) and Annexes 11/1 and 111/1 of the European Union Conservation of Wild Birds Directive. Listed (short list, with action plan) as a globally threatened/declining species (BSGR, 1995).