Partridge Saga

Wintry birds viewed from the kitchen window

The escaped partridges continue to prosper on the rough ground behind the house. Their shrill calls have become a feature of dawn and dusk, and it is fast becoming hard to imagine life without them here. I went out into the yard before dawn this morning and could dimly make them out against the dark rushes; scuttling shapes in the frost. It was a joy to hear their muttering little calls as they explored the open ground, and a barn owl passed overhead as the sky cracked into golden stripes; I was close to heaven. Unfortunately, the illusion of authenticity was quickly shattered when the home-reared partridges saw me and came running in to be fed…

It has been interesting to note that all is not well in this “covey”. One of the cocks has been cast out of the group, and he is now forced to ply his trade on the margins. Another bird shows signs of fighting, and least two are missing feathers on their rumps and tails. When I have kept captive stock for breeding in previous years, pairs need to be separated out by Christmas time before aggression really kicks in. Perhaps with the shortening days and colder weather, hormones are starting to break up the happy little gang sooner than expected.

These birds are from a variety of sources and I have no doubt that they will form a pair, but remember that I have six cocks and only a single hen. When the pair forms, the chances are that five cocks will be very disappointed. In all probability, the birds which fail to find a mate will disperse into the countryside and unless they can pick up a wild bird, they will surely meet a wasted, pointless death. This is not an ideal situation, but it is not something I had ever planned. Perhaps I can catch up one or two, but the shortage of hens would still leave me high and dry.

One thought on “Partridge Saga

  1. rogerdowald

    Interesting to follow this mini-saga Patrick. Have a look at Dick Potts’ book Partridges in the Poyser series which describes the winter dispersal behaviours of young male Greys.

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