The Grey partridge is a small game bird that belongs to the pheasant family. It has a brown back, grey flanks, and chest. The belly is white, usually marked with a large chestnut-brown horse-shoe mark in males, and also in many females. Young birds are mostly yellow-brown and lack the distinctive face and underpart markings.
Grey partridges are found in most of Europe and across western Asia. They inhabit open areas such as grasslands and steppes, shrublands, and farmlands with small fields.
Grey partridges are non-migratory terrestrial birds. They are gregarious and form flocks in numbers of up to 30 outside of the breeding season. Grey partridges are diurnal but usually forage at dawn and dusk. They are a seed-eating birds, but the young in particular take insects as an essential protein supply. During the first 10 days of life, the chicks can only digest insects and their parents lead them to the edges of cereal fields, where they can catch insects. Grey partridges can be territorial but they don't maintain territories. By day and by night males usually sing a harsh, high-pitched kieerr-ik song. When disturbed, like most of the gamebirds, Grey partridges fly a short distance on rounded wings, often calling rick rick rick as they rise.
Grey partridges are monogamous and mate for life. They nest on a ground nest. The nest is usually in the margin of a cereal field, most commonly winter wheat. The female lays up to 20 eggs and incubates them alone about 23-25 days; during this time the male remains near the nest. The chicks hatch precocial and are able to leave the nest within one hour after birth. They are able to fly at 16-20 days of age but still remain with parents for some time. Reproductive maturity is usually reached at 1 year of age.
Grey partridges are common and not threatened, however, populations are declining in numbers in some areas of intensive cultivation such as Great Britain. This happens due to a loss of breeding habitat and insecticides harming insect numbers, an important food source for these birds. Their numbers have fallen in these areas by as much as 85% in the last 25 years. Other causes for declines may include hunting, predation, and severe weather.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Grey partridge is around 3,900,000-7,600,000 individuals. In Europe, the breeding population consists of 1,380,000-2,670,000 pairs, which equates to 2,750,000-5,340,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.