The Common Partridge (Perdix cinerea), Fig. 66, is a Rasorial bird, forming the type of the sub-family Perdicinae, which in turn forms a division of the main family of the Tetraonidiae or grouse. The beak in the partridge is much shortened, and the edges of the mandibles are not indented. The nostrils are protected by a scale. A red stripe destitute of feathers occupies the place of the eyebrows. The hind toes are more or less elevated at the tarsi, which are scaly. The general habitat of partridges is in the comparatively flat pastoral grounds of hilly districts, but they are also found in woody places or amongst rocky cliffs. The nest is usually situated in a hollow of the ground. The progeny is numerous, and the young are able to run about and provide for themselves on leaving the egg.

The Common Partridge.

Fig. 66. - The Common Partridge.

The Common Partridge chiefly inhabits cultivated fields in Britain. The breeding season takes place in February, the males frequently engaging in combats for the possession of the females. The eggs, numbering ten to fifteen or more, are deposited in a rude nest usually amongst long grass on the outskirts of pleasure grounds, borders of young plantations, and in meadows or under a hedge in pastures at the end of May or beginning of June, the female taking upon herself the whole duties of incubation, although the male, after the young birds are hatched, shares the duties of its mate. The parent birds are very solicitous regarding the welfare of the young, running before the intruder, and by fluttering in an opposite direction strive to distract his attention from the neighbourhood of the nest or young. Instances are on record of the parent partridges successfully engaging a carrion crow in defence of their young. The partridges collect in late summer, autumn and winter in flocks of small size, known as "coveys," but they separate in spring to pair and incubate.

The food of partridges consists chiefly of grass, leguminous herbage, young seeds, and also of insects, and the birds feed in the early morning and late in the evening. The roosting place of the covey is generally in the middle of a grass or stubble field, the birds usually selecting a dry and comparatively high knoll. In the late summer and early autumn the "coveys" are generally found in potato and turnip fields, and in winter resort to furze coverts and similar wild districts.