Partridges belong to the Pheasant family Phasianidae

Courtesy of FokusNatur   CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Birds of the World-3 Partridges of the Alectoris genus. Introduction.

In this series we review birds that belong to certain genera. The species occur all over the globe on every continent. Here in part three we look at the partridges that are placed in the genus Alectoris. This genus belongs to the Galliformes and are allied to the European or English Grey partridge. The birds in this group are collectively known as the Rock partridges. They have representatives in southern Europe, North Africa,Arabia, and across Asia to Pakistan to Tibet and western China.

They are a group of non-migratory birds that inhabit dry open and generally hilly country. members of this genus have been introduced to other countries such as the United States,the UK, Canada and New Zealand.  We commence our review with the Arabian Partridge , Alectoris melanocephala

Arabian partridge. Alectoris melanocephala.  Courtesy of Tuxyso   CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Arabian Partridge Alectoris melanocephala.

The Arabian Partridge is native to the southern Arabian Peninsular,where there are also two sub species recognized. Alectoris melanocephala melanocephala,and Alectoris melanocephala guichard.  This species is known to breed with Philby's Partridge, and the Rock Partridge.{see below}.

It is a bird of about sixteen inches {41 cm } in length,and both sexes are similar in appearance but the male is a little larger. The crown and nape are black and there is a prominent broad white band above the eye,which is separated from the white chin and throat by a narrow black line. This starts at the corner of the bill,passes below the eye and forms a V shape on the neck. The sides of the neck are pale brown and the body,wings and tail are bluish-grey with darker markings on the flanks. The legs and bill are pinkish. The males have a projection on the lower leg.

This bird may be encountered in southern Saudi Arabia,Yemen and western Oman. It occurs on stony ground and grassy slopes with some vegetation cover from sea level up to an altitude of up to 4,600 feet. Like all partridges it is a ground dwelling bird that forages on seeds and other plant material, supplemented by small insects and invertebrate.

BREEDING- The breeding season commences in March and the female will deposit five to eight eggs in a shallow scrape in the ground. They are of a pale buff colour flecked with brown. The incubation period lasts for around 25 days. The young are able to leave the nest and follow their parents soon after hatching. There are no current conservation concerns.

Rock Partridge  Alectoris graeca

The Rock Partridge,  Alectoris graeca,  is native to south western Asia and south-eastern Europe, and is closely related to the Chukar partridge {see below}. it is a resident species that occurs in dry,open and often hilly country. 

It is a rotund bird with a light brown back, grey breast and a buff coloured belly. The face is white with a black gorget.The flanks are a rufous colour, and, streaked. The legs are reddish. They have rounded wings which are only utilized for short distances at a time. In common with other partridges this species would rather run than fly to avoid danger. The sharply defined gorget distinguishes this species from the similar looking Red-legged partridge. {see below}.

BREEDING.----The nest of this species is a mere scrape in the ground,where the female will deposit between six and twenty eggs. The incubation period is similar to that of the previous species.  

They have been introduced into other countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom.  According to the IUCN, this species is regarded as being near Threatened due to habitat loss and over-hunting. The Sicilian population in particular is of major conservation concern.


Chukar Partridge. Alectoris chukar.

The Chukar Partridge, Alectoris chukar, is a Eurasian ,upland game bird  and was once considered to be conspecific with the Rock Partridge. The Chukar has been introduced into many other countries and feral populations have become established in parts of North America and New Zealand,it is also found in parts of the Middle East.

It is a rotund species thirteen to fourteen inches {32-35 cm } long. They have a light brown back,grey breast and a buff coloured belly. The back is well marked. There is a reddish circle around the eyes through which runs a black band running down the head to form a necklace,which encloses a white throat. The black band also crosses the forehead  above the pinkish bill. There are black and lighter rufous barrings on the flanks. The legs are reddish pink,the male has a spur on the lower leg. The tail has fourteen feathers. Both sexes are similar but the female is slightly smaller and she lacks the spur on the lower leg.

It is very similar to the Rock partridge,but is distinguished by being much browner on the back  and there is a yellow tinge on the fore ,neck. The sharply defined gorget {necklace}, distinguishes  it from the Red Legged Partridge  which has a black collar breaking into dark streaks near the breast. There are fourteen sub-species recognized.

BREEDING---The breeding season is during the summer when a scantily lines scrape in the ground is suffice for the nest.It is usually sheltered under ferns or other vegetation. In rocky locations they may nest under the shelter of an over-hanging rock. The female will deposit 7-14 eggs,which will be incubated for a period of about 23-25 days. The chicks are born fully feathered and soon join the chicks of other members of the covey.

In the non-breeding season they may be encountered in small groups called coveys,of ten up to fifty birds or so. They have a direct,fast flight. They eat a variety of seeds, some insects and succulent vegetation.They also ingest grit to aid in digestion. They are the national bird of Iraq and of Pakistan. There are no current conservation concerns. 

Philby's Partridge. Courtesy of Der Irbis {German Wikipedia} , CC BY-SA 3.0 License.  Taken at Tierpark Berlin.

Philby's Partridge. Alectoris philbyi.

Philby's Partridge, Alectoris philbyi, is a native to southwestern Arabia and north Yemen. It is a relative of the Chukar, Red-legged partridge and Barbary partridge. It is named after the british explorer St John Philby. 

Although similar in appearance to the Chukar, it can be distinguished by its  black cheek and throat,and a thin white line separates this from the  greyish-blue head and nape.The bill is pinkish as are the legs and feet. the general plumage colour is a greyish-brown, the flanks banded or barred with black and pale buff. 

This species inhabits rocky slopes with sparse vegetation usually at altitudes between 4,500 and 9,000 feet. {1400-2700 M }. It is a ground dwelling bird which feeds on seeds and other plant material supplemented by small invertebrate.

BREEDING---The breeding season lasts from April until June. A clutch of 5-8 eggs are laid in the nest located on the ground,they are incubated for a period of 24 -28 days. The eggs are a pale buff colour speckled with pink. The resulting chicks are born fully feathered and able to run around soon after hatching.

Although they are not listed as being of conservation concern, there are concerns locally for this species. Warring factions in the tribal regions of northern Yemen has seen the destruction of some of the birds fragile habitat. 

Barbary Partridge. Courtesy of Frits van der Meer.  {Utrecht Netherlands}. CC BY2.0 Generic License. Taken in Teneriffe. 

Barbary partridge. Alectoris barabara.

The Barbary Partridge, Alectoris barbara, is a species native to North Africa, Gibralter, and the Canary Islands. It has been introduced to Portugal and Madeira,although there are no recent records from Madeira. It is also present in Sardinia. It is a species closely related to the western European Red-legged Partridge {below}.

This bird is about thirteen to fourteen and a quarter  inches {33-36 cm }long. A rotund bird with a grey brown colouring on the back,the breast is grey the belly a buff colour. The face is a light grey with a reddish brown gorget speckled with white. The flanks are barred with rufous streaks. The bill and feet are reddish pink. Although superficially similar to the Red-legged partridge it has a different head and neck patterning. The wings are rounded which it utilizes to s to run rather than fly to avoid danger.at prefers to run rather than fly to avoid danger.

The bird is a resident breeder of dry, open,and often hilly country,where it forages on plant material and invertebrates. The nest is a mere scrape in the ground which is scantily lined and suffice as a receptacle for between ten and sixteen eggs. There are no current conservation concerns. 

Red legged partridge. courtesy of Mark Medcalf  CC BY2.0 Generic License. Taken in Scotland.

Red-legged partridge. Alectoris rufa.

The Red -legged partridge, Alectoris rufa, is often referred to as the French partridge to distinguish them from the English or Grey partridge. It is a native of south western Europe { France, Iberia and north west Italy}, but has been introduced into the UK, where it has become established  in the flat areas of England and Wales and to Scotland. In England it breeds as far north as Cumbria  and eastern Yorkshire.

It is a non-migratory species, a ground dwelling  bird which forms flocks outside the breeding season. It was introduced as a game species. It is a typical rotund bird with a light brown back, grey breast and buff coloured belly. The flanks are streaked with rufous bars. They have a cream throat,pink/red legs and a bright red bill. The crown and upper nape of the adult are a warm pinkish brown, the fore crown and lateral edges of the crown are a pale blue-grey. The eye ring is red through which runs a black band. The band continues below the eye where it broadens down to the throat patch to meet the upper edge of the gorget. The chin and upper throat are a cream white colour,bordered behind and below  by a solid black gorget on a sandy grey background.sometimes flecked with white. 

The flanks are adorned with a bright rufous brown bars there is an off white colouring between the bars. The upper parts are unmarked of a sandy grey colour. The tail feathers are a pinkish rufous colour.

They were ,as previously mentioned introduced as a Game bird In its native range it thrives on hot,dry areas with sandy soil. This species is thought to be in decline across its native range. There are three sub-species recognized. Alectoris rufa hispanica, that occurs in northern and western Iberian Peninsular.Alectoris rufa intercedens, that occurs in the eastern and southern Iberian Peninsular and the Balearic Islands, and Alectoris rufa rufa , which occurs in France, north west Italy and Corsica.


Przevalski's Partridge.

The final species in this group is the Przevalski's Partridge,some times referred to as the Rusty necklaced Partridge, Alectoris magna. It is found in China and is named after the Russian Explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky.

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Grey Partridge.


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Rock partridge. Courtey of ECOTOURS Wildlife Holidays. Birding in Slovenia