The releasing of red-legged partridges was uncommon practice in 1961: only 19% of shoots in the NGC that reported bags of redlegs in that year also released them, and numbers released were tiny. Since then, there has been an almost exponential increase in the NGC releasing index, with some sign of slowing only in the last five years. Overall, numbers released now are almost 200 times higher than in 1961.
The bag originally relied on wild production, and so fell in the 1960s in the same way that the grey partridge bag fell, reflecting the impact of early agricultural intensification. Since then, the increase in releasing has fed through to the bag, which has increased eight-fold over the full 50-year span but almost 100-fold since 1965. The redleg bag index shows no sign of the stabilisation observed for pheasant over the last 20 years, probably because most redleg shoot days are held in the first half of the season.
In absolute terms, the most recent estimate of numbers released and shot is provided by the 2006 PACEC report The Economic and Environmental Impact of Sporting Shooting, which estimated that 6.5 million partridges were released across the UK in 2004, and 2.6 million were shot.
Index of red-legged partridge bags and numbers released from 1961 to 2011 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations). Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.
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