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It is a fact that partridges are most abundant in the places where they are conserved for shooting. This is not because shooters go to where they are most common, but because on these places partridges are managed carefully so that they breed and survive better than elsewhere, giving more partridges because of, not despite, shooting.
Certainly where partridges are scarce and sparrowhawks are in good numbers, predation by birds of prey could be a limiting factor and this is the subject of current research. However, under the pre-1960s traditional farming methods, both birds were common. Partridges declined most severely in the 1960s and 1970s, when sparrowhawks themselves were almost wiped out by organo-chlorine pesticides.
Foxes and crows undoubtedly suppress partridge numbers and we have proved that effective predation control by a gamekeeper can easily treble partridge numbers in a few years. So, having more gamekeepers reducing foxes and crows will help. However, with adequate nesting and winter cover, as well as sympathetic farming systems which improve chick survival, a partridge stock should maintain itself, albeit at a low density, even in the presence of predators.
For two reasons. First, the partridge has declined primarily because arable land has become inhospitable through agricultural intensification, so restoring the habitat should always be the priority. Second, hand-reared partridges do not behave naturally in the wild and are very vulnerable to predators. Even those that do survive usually fail to breed in subsequent years.
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