Project is boost for wild partridge

A three-year project aims to boost one of Britain’s most rapidly declining farmland birds.

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust hopes to increase numbers of the wild grey partridge on the upland fringes of northern England.

It believes the project could bring major conservation benefits to the partridge population which is under threat across the UK.

Following two poor breeding seasons and a severe winter, experts have warned of a pressing need for a rapid increase in partridge numbers.

The study will establish local conservation targets and promote practices to ensure upland fringes are managed in a way that is conducive to partridge recovery.

Trust project officer Phil Warren said: “Given that numbers are currently so low we obviously urge that until a recovery is achieved, shooters should refrain from harvesting them.”

Initially, numbers and distribution of grey partridge will be identified in the Durham and Yorkshire dales.

Earlier research revealed locally high densities of grey partridges. But since 2007, the population has suffered an alarming 90% decline.

Although grey partridges are primarily recognised as a lowland arable bird, important populations still persist in upland fringe areas.

“We know very little about these birds other than that they frequent hay meadows and rush infested pastures on the moorland fringe,” Dr Warren said.

The study would provide detailed information on their habitat use so conservationists could increase their numbers and distribution.