Scientific name: Alectoris rufa
Other common names: French Partridge
The Red-legged Partridge is a non-migratory upland game bird from southwestern Europe that has been successfully introduced to the United Kingdom. They can adapt to scrubby, wooded, or even rocky territory in dry lowland areas, as long as feral cats are not a threat to this ground-nesting species.
The Red-legged Partridge has a vaguely chicken-like profile, with strong legs that allow them to run on the ground. They are grayish-brown birds with white faces and throats that are strongly accented by the black line through the eyes which connects to the black “bib” outline around the white throat. The name is not particularly helpful in distinguishing this species from its cousin, the Chukar, since both birds have dull reddish-pink legs. Instead, check the black border that divides the white face and throat from the breast. In the Chukar, the black line is clean and well-defined. In the Red-legged Partridge, the black line is expanded into a large streaky bib over the chest.
500 - 550 grams (18 - 19 oz.)
Red-legged Partridges are susceptible to the diseases that might impact any ground-nesting bird, especially one kept in a more crowded environment. Keep them and their home scrupulously clean. They can also pick up worms or Coccidiosis if they are not kept on a clean, dry floor. Larger operations have sometimes found it more practical to raise them on wire, although such a setting detracts somewhat from the beauty of the bird. Get a referral to a good avian or poultry veterinarian for the most up-to-date information.
Behavior / temperament:
Red-legged Partridges have the unusual habit of starting one nest and then abandoning it to build a second one. The female then incubates the second clutch, while the male goes back to incubate the first nest. If both broods survive, the parents raise them separately.
While Red-legged Partridges have been cage-bred on wires in pairs or trios of one male to every two females, they can also show well in a planted aviary with dry, well-drained substrate. Partridges are tasty birds, so make sure the aviary or bird room is secure against predators of every kind, from rodents to birds of prey and thieves.
Red-legged Partridges are herbivores who have been observed consuming a wide variety of vegetable matter, including seeds and even fruit. The backbone of the diet is a high quality game bird or turkey crumble, but it should be supplemented with seeds (milky or sprouted as well as dry), chopped greens including deep green lettuces and chickweed, and chopped small fruit such as cherry tomatoes, grapes, and wild or cultivated berries. They will demand some live insects when feeding chicks.
Written by Elaine Radford