People passionate about nature

Gray Partridge

Above: A Gray Partridge forages at a rural lawn on a summer day in eastern Saskatchewan; photo by Peter Taylor

How do I recognize it?
Gray Partridges are plump, short-tailed, chicken-like birds, smaller than grouse. Their overall grey plumage is enhanced by rich brown mottling, ochre head-feathers, and rusty corners to the tail.

Above: Partridges huddle together for warmth in a snow bank near Lyleton; photo by Peter Taylor

Does it migrate?
Gray Partridges do not migrate, but they may disperse some distance into marginal parts of their range when numbers are high.

Above: An early-winter covey of Gray Partridges near Beausejour; photo by Peter Taylor

Where does it live?
Gray Partridges live in mixed farmland throughout the agricultural portion of Manitoba. They are not native here, but were introduced from Europe to North America, reaching the Prairie Provinces in the 1920s and 1930s.

Above: Two Gray Partridges warily seek cover near Lac du Bonnet; photo by Peter Taylor

Where can I see it?
Look for partridges in mixed farmland with some shrubby cover or shelter belts. Drive slowly along section roads, looking for their heads above roadside vegetation or in the fields nearby. They often occur close to farm buildings and are most conspicuous in early winter. They can be found around the fringes of Winnipeg as well as in farming areas as far north as Swan River and eastward to the Lac du Bonnet area.

Above: Partridges, like these two near Beausejour, can be difficult to spot in cultivated fields; photo by Peter Taylor

Conservation Status:
As a non-native species, the Gray Partridge is outside the scope of many conservation efforts. Having been introduced as a game bird, it is subject to regulated hunting, and seems to be maintaining good numbers despite increasingly intensive agriculture. Numbers fluctuate but are currently quite high in southern Manitoba. Huge clutches, occasionally exceeding 20 eggs, help populations to rebound from crashes when conditions become favourable.

Did you know:
In Manitoba, the name “partridge” is often given to Ruffed Grouse, which can cause some confusion, while Gray Partridges are sometimes called “Hungarian partridges”, especially by hunters.

Written by Peter Taylor