Partridge, the popular name of the family of perdicidce, which includes also the quails. They differ from the grouse in having the legs bare and the nostrils protected by a naked hard scale; they are also smaller and the species are more numerous; the head seldom has a naked space around the eyes, and the sides of the toes are hardly pectinated; they are widely distributed over the globe, but the true partridges, or perdicince, have no representative in America. Great confusion exists in the application of the term partridge; the spruce partridge is the Canada grouse (tetrao [canace] Canadensis, Linn.); the partridge of New England is the ruffed grouse (bonasa umoellus, Steph.); the partridge of the middle and southern states is the quail (ortyx Virginianus, Bonap.); several other quails are called partridges, as the plumed and Gambel's of California, the scaled or blue and the Massena of the valley of the Eio Grande in Texas; on the other hand, the birds called quails in Europe belong to the partridges and to the genus coturnix (Mohr.); such of the so-called partridges, therefore, as are not described here will be found under Grouse and Quail, and the francolin partridges under Fean-colist. - The typical partridges belong to the genus perdix (Briss.); the bill is short, broad at the base, with the apex curved and vaulted; the wings moderate and rounded, with the third, fourth, and fifth quills longest; tail short and greatly concealed by the coverts; tarsi without spurs or tubercles; toes long, inner shorter than outer, hind one short and slender, and claws moderate and slightly curved.
There are about a dozen species in the temperate parts of the old world, some constant residents and others migratory, some frequenting cultivated lands and others forests; though occasionally perching on trees, they are generally seen on the ground, searching for grain, seeds, bulbous roots, and insects; the nest is a slight hollow on the ground, beneath some bush, and the eggs are from 12 to 20. The common or gray partridge (P. cinerea, Lath.) is about 12 in. long, with an alar extent of 20 in.; the body is round and stout, the head small, and the legs and tail short. Though the plumage has no brilliant colors, it is very neat, and its intricate upper markings of ash-gray, yellowish brown, brownish black, and brownish red are pleasing to the eye; the scapulars and wing coverts are darker with whitish streaks; the forehead, cheeks, and throat light red; neck ash-gray, with minute black undulations; sides with broad bands of brownish red, and a large patch of the same on the breast. The female is a little smaller, with the upper parts browner and the top of the head streaked with yellowish; both sexes present considerable variations.
This species is spread abundantly over Europe, and is sometimes found in N. Africa, generally in the vicinity of grain fields and very rarely in woods; it runs with great speed, squatting close to the ground when alarmed; the flight is rapid, direct, low, and accompanied with a whirring sound; it is wary, and easily frightened; the affection for the young, or pouts, is very remarkable, and various devices are used by the parents to distract attention from the brood. During winter they keep together in coveys, searching for food among the stubble; they separate early in spring, pairing in March, the eggs being laid in June; the males take no part in incubation, but watch the nest. The genus is monogamous. This is one of the best game birds, as its flesh is tender and well flavored; shooting it forms a favorite and exciting amusement, especially in Great Britain; the bird is so prolific that, with protection during the breeding season, their numbers do not materially diminish, and the markets are so well supplied that the price brings them within the reach of the middle classes. The partridge thrives well in captivity, and its inclination to the neighborhood of man seems to indicate that with proper treatment and food it might be domesticated.
It is not only the victim of man, but of carnivorous mammals and birds, to the last of which it is peculiarly exposed on account of its terrestrial habits and short flight. - The Guernsey or red-legged partridge belongs to the genus caccabis (Kaup); in this the bill is more arched and the tarsi are armed with a blunt tubercle. This species (C. rufa, Kaup) is 14 in. long, with an alar extent of 21 in.; the bill and feet are bright red; upper parts reddish brown tinged with gray; a black band from the bill to the eye, and thence down the neck, becoming wider and meeting in front that of the opposite side; lower parts ash-gray and light red, and sides banded with the same and black and white. It is confined chiefly to the southern countries of Europe and to Asia and Africa; it is found also in the islands of Guernsey and Jersey; its flesh is highly esteemed, but it affords less sport than the common species from the separation of the flock when pursued by dogs; it is also believed to drive off the gray partridge.
The Greek or rock partridge (G. Grceca, Briss.) is larger than the last, and has the plumage more ashy; it inhabits the mountainous regions of Greece, Turkey, and Asia Minor, and is probably the species alluded to in the Hebrew and other ancient writings; the flesh is white and much esteemed, though it is occasionally bitter. - The genus ithaginis (Wagl.) has a short stout bill, lengthened and rounded tail, long tarsi armed with two or three blunt spurs, and the toes and claws long. Here belongs the sanguine partridge (/. eruentus, Hardw.), from the mountains of N. India; it is slate-colored above with yellow streaks, and greenish yellow below irregularly spotted with red; edge of tail coverts and vent red; it is nearly as large as a pheasant.
Common Partridge (Perdix cinerea).
Guernsey Partridge (Caccabis rufa).