Grey Partridge Conservation

Baby Gray Partridges receiving some TLC before they
return to the Red Squirrel enclosure to mature

For a few years now, alongside Owls & Red Squirrels our manager Andy Hulme has been concentrating on a third conservation project involving a small game bird, the Grey Partridge.

These birds were once a common sight in in East Anglia, traditionally found on the arable lands of the region. However, like so many wildlife species, their favoured habitat of uncultivated field margins were ploughed into the ground and set-aside areas disappeared. As a result Grey Partridges have had difficulty finding suitable environments to provide their preferred diet of seeds, grasses, insects and the all-important insect larvae which provide the correct nutrition for their young.

But the tide is turning. With the help of conservation groups, sympathetic farmers and the special incentives provided for land owners, the type of habitat favoured by Grey Partridge is being allowed to flourish and a depleted UK population of only 75,000 breeding pairs is on the rise once again.

Andy has enabled us to play our part by using the large enclosure where our colony of Red Squirrels resides, to breed Grey Partridge for release. These are periodically set free in coveys of about 15 birds of both sexes onto managed land in the local vicinity - usually field margins between 4 and 6 meters wide. This habitat provides plenty of suitable nesting sites and the required abundance of insect life and a good variation of leaves & seeds on which they can forage.

Once back on the land, Grey Partridge form pairs by the end of February and start seeking out suitable nesting sites - they prefer free-draining soil on a south-facing slope with good cover provided by vegetation such as short tussocky grass and crops. Eggs hatch in late Spring and notably, the chicks immediately start the process of hunting for insect life using and instinctive natural pecking method which is extremely strong in the species from the time they hatch.

Our Coveys of Grey Partridge are quite happy co-habiting with
our Red Squirrels prior to their release