PARTRIDGE (Tetrao perdix). A bird of game, which abounds in all parts of Europe, and is much esteemed for the delicate flavour of its flesh. The colour of its plumage is brown and ash, interspersed with black; the middle of each feather streaked down with buff; the tail, short; the legs, of a greenish white, with a small knob behind; the bill, of a light brown ; the eyes, hazel. Partridges are found no where in greater plenty than in this country; and, as a delicacy, notwithstanding their numbers, are held inferior to none.
Partridges pair towards the end of February ; the hen lays from fifteen to upwards of twenty eggs, making her nest on the ground, with grass or leaves, in a clover or corn-field; the young birds run as soon as hatched, sometimes even with a portion of the shell adhering to their bodies. The fecundity of these birds is astonishing: in 1823, a covey of twenty-two birds was found; but, although a covey so individually numerous as the one just mentioned
is not often met with, yet there are instances of a still more surprising fecundity. In the year 1793, on a farm belonging to Mr. Pratt, near Terling, in Essex, a partridge's nest was found, in a fallow field, containing thirty-three eggs ; of these twenty-three were hatched,and the whole went off with the hen; and of the remaining eggs four more had live birds in them. In 1798, the nest of a partridge was found near E1borough, in Somersetshire, with twenty-eight eggs; and in June, 1801, at Mr. Clarke's, Welton Place, Nottinghamshire, a partridge's nest, containing thirty-three eggs, was found in one of the plantations. Thus, then, in manors well stocked and carefully preserved, the increase of a single season, even upon a moderate scale, may be easily conceived.
Partridges, both male and female, are excessively attached to, and indefatigable in defending their offspring. Whenever a dog or other enemy approaches the nest, the male sounds the tocsin, by a peculiar cry, throwing himself into immediate danger, in order to perplex or mislead the pursuer; he flies, or rather hops or runs along the ground, hanging his wings, and falling down, then rising at intervals, until he succeeds in drawing the foe from the covey; the female flies off in a contrary direction, and to a greater distance; but soon returns, and hastily collects her scattered treasure, which instantly assemble at her well-known voice, and follow where she leads them.
If the eggs of a partridge be placed under the domestic hen, she will hatch and rear them as her own. Care must be taken, however, that the young be supplied with ants' eggs, their favourite food, without which it will be found almost impossible to rear them. They also seek and greedily devour all that infinite variety of insects, found on the blades of grass, the leaves of plants, &c. It has been asserted, that eggs thus hatched suffer too M
great heat, and that, in consequence, the feathers of the bird about to come forth adhere to the inner surface of the shell. To obviate this, it is recoomended to place the eggs under the lightest bantam hen. The partridge, if unmolested, lives fifteen or sixteen years; it can never be thoroughly tamed like our domestic poultry.
Partridges were originally taken with the stalking horse and net; but, through the introduction of the fowling-piece, this sport has undergone considerable improvement, and now ranks secondary only to grouseshooting, which has been pronounced the fox-hunting of la chasse aufusil.
The red-legged partridge is larger and heavier, and appears to fly with more difficulty than the common partridge, with which, however, it has been known to pair. This beautiful variety is found in abundance in some parts of the continent, particularly in France and Spain: it has also been partially introduced into tins country, and is met with in the west of England, also in Norfolk and Suffolk. It is said not to be so prolific as the gray or common partridge, which never lights but upon the ground, whereas the red frequently perches on trees. Shooters say that they afford bad sport, and injure the dogs because they hardly ever lay well.
In November, 1827, a pied partridge, and another, milk-white, were shot in the neighbourhood of Ripon, Yorkshire; they are both preserved in the fine collection of rare birds, iic. belonging to T. Stubbs, Esq. of that place. In January, 1828, another white partridge was shot by Mr. Moiser, of Topcliffe; this, also, has been placed in the same museum.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835
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