The UK population of grey partridge declined by over 50% between 1969-1990 to a current estimated 150,000 pairs. Populations in some mixed farming areas seem stable, especially in the north, but in areas of historical low abundance such as intensive grasslands in the west, declines have sometimes exceeded 95%. The species is almost extinct in Northern Ireland.
Grey partridge is protected in Britain under the Game Acts and in Northern Ireland by the Game Preservation (Partridge and Hen Pheasant) Order (Northern Ireland) 1967. It is listed as endangered in the Irish Vertebrate Red Data Book. It is also listed on Annex III/I of the EC Birds Directive and Appendix III of the Bern Convention.
Current factors causing loss or decline
Loss of nest sites (such as hedge bottoms) to farm intensification.
Reduced food supplies and sources for chick food through the use of pesticides and herbicides, as well as the loss of winter stubble feeding grounds for overwintering birds.
Vulnerability of nests to predators in farmland with poor cover.
Nest destruction caused by early mowing and other farm operations.
The Game Conservancy Trust (GCT) encourages land managers to create suitable conditions for grey partridge, including suitable nest sites and cover, summer and winter feeding areas (e.g.: conservation headlands and winter stubbles), and control of predators and shooting.
A Species Action Plan has been prepared for this species by the RSPB, the country agencies and the GCT.
Action plan objectives and targets
Halt the decline by 2005.
Ensure the population is above 150,000 pairs by 2010.
Maintain the current range of this species.
Enhance the current geographical range of this species, where biologically feasible.
Proposed actions with lead agencies
Policy and legislation
Consider the requirements of the grey partridge when establishing and reviewing agri-environment schemes. (ACTION: DANI, MAFF, SOAEFD, WOAD)
Consider the requirements of the grey partridge in any negotiations on changes to, or reform of, agricultural support. (ACTION: DANI, MAFF, SOAEFD, WOAD)
Encourage targeted use of pesticides on farmland. (ACTION: DANI, MAFF, SOAEFD, WOAD)
To encourage beneficial use of existing agricultural schemes to benefit the species.
Site safeguard and management
No actions proposed.
Species management and protection
No action proposed.
Continue to provide information and management advice to landowners and managers through GCT, FWAG and other advisors. (ACTION: CCW, DoE(NI), NE, SNH)
Promote field margins as wildlife habitat. (ACTION: DANI, MAFF, SOAEFD, WOAD)
To promote Grey Partridge initiative through Local BAP’s.
Future Research and Monitoring
Continue to investigate the ecological requirements of the grey partridge to help develop management advice. (ACTION: CCW, DoE(NI), NE, SNH, JNCC)
Investigate the impact of different management regimes on grey partridge populations, using selected farms with experimental schemes or ESA prescriptions. (ACTION: CCW, DANI, DoE(NI), NE, MAFF, SNH, SOAEFD, WOAD)
Encourage regular monitoring of the UK population through census work and bag returns. (ACTION: CCW, DoE(NI), NE, JNCC, SNH)
Promote further research into the indirect effects of agrochemical use on the grey partridge. (ACTION: CCW, DoE(NI), NE, JNCC, SNH)
Pass information gathered during survey and monitoring of this species to JNCC or BRC so that it can be incorporated in national databases. (ACTION: CCW, DoE(NI), NE, SNH)
Provide information annually to Birdlife International on the UK status of the species to contribute to maintenance of an up-to-date global red list. (ACTION: JNCC)
Communications and Publicity
Use grey partridge in agriculture courses to illustrate the impact farm management may have on wildlife. (ACTION: DANI, MAFF, SOAEFD, WOAD)
Use Grey Partridge in education programme for range of targeted audiences to illustrate the positive impact farm management may have on wildlife.
Links with other action plans
Originally published in: Biodiversity: The UK Steering Group Report - Volume II: Action Plans (December 1995, Tranche 1, Vol 2, p105)
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