The Partridge of Britain is of two kinds: the one is the gray or common partridge, and the other is sometimes termed the French partridge. Partridges are chiefly found in temperate climates, the extremes of heat and cold being equally unfavourable to them. Partridges pair early in the spring; and once united it is rare that anything but death separates them.
The affection of the partridge for her young is peculiarly strong and lively: she is also greatly assisted in the care of rearing them by her mate; they together lead them in common, call them together, gather for them their suitable food, and assist in procuring it by scratching the ground. They frequently sit close to each other, covering their offspring like the hen.
In this situation they are not easily flushed; but should the pointer come too near, or run in upon them, then great confusion follows. The male first gives the signal of alarm by a peculiar cry of distress, throwing himself at the same moment more immediately in the way of danger, in order to deceive or mislead the enemy; he flies, or rather runs along the ground, hanging his wings, and exhibiting every symptom of debility and weakness, in order to decoy the dog. The female flies off in a contrary direction and to a great distance but returns soon after by secret paths, and she then commonly finds her scattered brood closely squatted among the grass and collecting them with haste, she leads them from the danger before the dog has had time to return from the pursuit.
The female lays from fourteen to eighteen or twenty eggs, generally in the month of May, making her nest (rather a rough one) of dry leaves and grass upon the ground in grass fields, among standing corn, in clover, in furze, and sometimes even at the top of a ditch. From this time to the latter end of June, the process of incubation takes place. In all the stages of this task the male bird takes a certain share. When the brood is hatched, he manifests the greatest solicitude in leading them abroad in search of ants’ eggs, and larva among insects.
This care, however, is left to the female as soon as the birds are able to fly. Her watchfulness still continues, and seems even increased. She is never far from them, but searches for food for them and leads them abroad to their scratching ground, and when they seem tired, she gathers them all around her with great care. When they are about their full size or within a third of her own bulk, they are left in a great measure to shift for themselves.
The young birds run as soon as hatched, frequently encumbered with a part of the shell attached to them. It is not unusual thing also to introduce partridge’s eggs under the common hen, who hatches and rears them as her own: in this case the young birds require to be fed with ants’ eggs, which are their favourite food, and without which it is impossible to bring them up; they likewise eat insects, and, when full grown, all kinds of grain and plants.
Taken from “Shooting” by Robert Blakey
Illustrations by Archibald Thorburn, WikiGallery
Farida Mestek is the author of “Margaret's Rematch”, “A Secret Arrangement” and “Lord Darlington's Fancy” - romantic stories set against the backdrop of Regency England. You can learn more about her books and link to her previous posts on the subject of sport at her blog.