The grey partridge in the UK: population status, research, policy and prospects.
Numbers of grey partridges (Perdix perdix) have declined catastrophically over the last 50 years in the UK. By contrast, the Partridge Count Scheme of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) shows an 81% increase on participating UK sites since 2000. We explore the background and reasons for this conflicting picture. GWCT research has led to scientifically proven recommendations for improving the UK partridge environment, ranging from habitat requirements to predator density. The research has influenced UK government policy, which now includes one of the most conservation-oriented and flexible agri-environment schemes in Europe, allowing land managers to recover much of the cost of grey partridge habitat creation. Culling common predators is not covered by agri-environment schemes, so it is primarily shooting estates with private gamekeepers that have implemented the full package of management measures. The future fate of the grey partridge in the UK rests on the balance between the economics of agricultural production, agri-environment measures and shooting.