Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix) - Species Action Plan

Ref 1/S8 Species Action Plan 8
Plan Author: RSPB
Plan Co-ordinator: Farmland BAP Topic Group
Plan Leader: RSPB
Final Draft 31 December 1998
Revised Final Draft January 2006

Current Status

National Status

  • The UK population has declined by 88% between 1977 and 2002 and continues to decline. It is estimated that its population is about 75,000 pairs.
  • Grey partridge is protected in the close season in Britain under the Game Acts. It is also listed on Annex III/I of the EC Birds Directive and Appendix III of the Bern Convention.

Norfolk Status

  • In the early twentieth century, the partridge was probably occupying virtually all cultivated land. The Norfolk Bird Atlas surveyed its distribution in the late 1980s, when it was found in 37% of Norfolk 2km2 (red-legged partridge occupied 90%) with a pronounced concentration in the north-west of the county.
  • It now has a rather patchy distribution in Norfolk with concentrations in north-west, mid and north Norfolk as well as the Brecks, linked (but not exclusively) to light soils and positive management. The population could be circa 6,000 pairs, but good data away from the managed areas is sparse.

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Current factors causing loss or decline in Norfolk

  • Changes in farming practice in recent decades, including:

- Loss of nest sites (such as hedge bottoms) through intensification and insensitive management of what remains.
- Reduced food supplies and insects for chicks in particular, through the increasing use and efficiency of insecticides and herbicides.
- The loss of winter stubbles as feeding grounds, due to increasing sowing of 'winter' crops and spraying with herbicide those stubbles that remain.
- Vulnerability of nests to predators in farmland with poor cover exacerbated by the decline in traditional keepering.

  • More inclement spring weather (possibly).
  • Shooting on areas where there is no positive management will contribute to further decline.

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Current Action in Norfolk

  • The Game Conservancy Trust (GCT) encourages land managers to create suitable conditions for grey partridge, including suitable nest sites, cover, summer and winter feeding areas (eg, conservation headlands and winter stubbles), and control of predators principally foxes, magpies and crows. Norfolk has a county Partridge Group which co-ordinates monitoring and disseminates good practice such as the recent GCT guidelines, 'Conserving the grey partridge' which advises among a list of five points not shooting grey partridges after the end of December.
  • Management guidelines for grey partridge are widely distributed by GCT, FWAG, Defra-RDS (shortly to become part of Natural England) and RSPB.
  • Grey partridge is targeted by arable options under agri-environment. Field margin management and conservation headlands under Countryside Stewardship and the Breckland agri-environment schemes should help grey partridges. The Environmental Stewardship schemes will continue to target and provide management options for this species.
  • Set-aside is positively used to benefit partridges on a number of farms and estates.

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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.


  • Maintain and increase the current estimated numbers and range of grey partridge in Norfolk.
  • Target effort on remaining strongholds to encourage re-building a more extensive distribution. By 2010, breeding partridges to be present in all suitable areas, with the breeding population generally increasing towards an ultimate target of 14,500 pairs.

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