Grey partridge

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What is a Grey partridge?

The Grey partridge is a bird. Not to be confused with the red-legged partridge, which is often bred for shoots, the grey partridge is often referred to as the English partridge and classified as a Red List species. It has a distinctive rust-coloured mask although if seen, it’s invariably running or flying away from you with a characteristic rapid wing beat that generates a strong whirring sound and in flight, reveals matching rust-coloured tail feathers. It also has dark feathers on its chest resembling an inverted horseshoe.

Why is the Grey partridge important to the Surrey Hills?

The grey partridge has suffered a steep decline in numbers in recent years with this partly being attributed to decreases in insect populations.

What habitat does the Grey partridge like?


Arable is currently is one of the most intensively managed land uses and covers a multitude of crops from the most basic commodity products such as wheat, oilseed rape, sugar beet and potatoes to more specialist crops such as linseed and asparagus. Some crops are annual while others, particularly salad crops, can yield two or three crops each year on the same piece of land.

What can be done to benefit the Grey partridge?

Good management and habitat creation opportunities for grey partridge includes:
  • Dense hedgerows generally not more than 2m high and not grazed out in the bottom.
  • Tussocky grass margins adjacent to the hedge particularly when it faces south
  • Dead grass available in the grass margin for nesting material
  • Bare soil strips between the margin and crop for drying out and dusting
  • A reliable and productive source of insect food such as conservation headlands, unharvested cereal headlands and ‘bumblebird’ mixes
  • Supplementary feeding during the ‘hungry gap’ at the end of the winter


Creating and managing areas for the Grey partridge will help deliver the following benefits to communities:
  • Clean water
  • Clean air
  • Protection from and mitigation of environmental hazards
  • Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change
  • Thriving plants and wildlife
  • Beauty, heritage and engagement

These illustrations are by an artist taking part in a programme delivered by Watts Gallery Trust and funded by the Michael Varah Memorial Fund. This series of 30 Surrey Hills Indicator Species were commissioned by Surrey Hills Society and funded by Surrey Hills Trust Fund as part of the Making Space for Nature Exhibition.