Grey Partridge Perdix perdix in the UK: recovery status, set-aside and shooting.
The Grey Partridge Perdix perdix is a European Species of Conservation Concern and a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) launched a major programme to help partridge recovery in the UK, built on the GWCT's Partridge Count Scheme (PCS) and including a demonstration site from 2002. We contrast the national picture of no population change since 1999 from BTO monitoring with a doubling of spring pair density on PCS sites. At the demonstration site, where set-aside was used for habitat creation, Grey Partridge breeding density increased six-fold, to 18 pairs /km2, then fell back. The drop coincided with bad weather but also with the disappearance of rotational set-aside when the set-aside rate fell to zero, which halved the amount of brood-rearing habitat. Non-rotational set-aside remained unchanged, as did the amount of nesting habitat that it provided. Grey Partridge density was significantly linked to rotational set-aside, especially wild bird cover, but not to non-rotational set-aside. The demonstration project also showed that, with appropriate precautions, it was possible to shoot over 60% of Red-legged Partridges Alectoris rufa while maintaining Grey Partridge losses below 5%. On PCS sites, the annual change in spring density in recent years differed in relation to neither shooting pressure nor intensity of Red-legged Partridge releasing. Provision of brood-rearing habitats and game cover increased with the latter, and probably counteracts the shooting losses of Grey Partridges on Red-legged Partridge shoots when, as on PCS sites, active measures keep those losses below 20%. Targeted personal advice channelled through the PCS has been fundamental to these successes and must be expanded.