Wild greys need the ‘three-legged stool'
Shooting Times & Country|September 29, 2021
Successful reintroduction of our native partridge is complex and there are several things we can do to give it the best possible chance
MIKE SWAN

Writing in a September heatwave, it is easy to forget that it has been a funny old spring and summer. It started with a frosty April, followed by a cold, wet May. Then things began to look up, with a warm, sunny start to June, only to break down again with some seriously wet weather around peak partridge hatch time at the end of the month.

There is a school of thought that says grey partridges cannot take rain and that the chicks will all expire if they have to face anything much more than a light shower. That clearly isn’t true. It’s fair to say that, in my part of the world, it has not been a vintage year for the wild greys, and, yes, there are some barren pairs and small, late broods. But there are also some very decent coveys — in fact, it looks like a pretty average year to me.

If you think about it, this is hardly surprising. Grey partridges are native, so they must surely be able to cope with an average British summer, complete with thunderstorms and cold, wet days. Throughout history, the greys have had good and bad years — that is in the nature of the species — but years of no young at all simply do not happen. So if you have a hankering for trying to get them back on your shoot, please don’t let fears about the weather put you off.

In my early days at the GWCT, I learned a great deal about grey partridges from the late Dr. Dick Potts, who was then director of research. It was he who coined the phrase ‘three-legged stool’ to help people understand the fundamentals of what grey partridges needed to thrive. Dick said that there were three basic requirements — a suitable habitat, food throughout the life cycle and reasonable freedom from predation. As with the three legs of a milking stool, if one of the supports is missing, the whole thing will collapse.

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