Habitat use, nest-sites and chick diet of Grey partridge Perdix perdix on hill farms in north east England
Capsule: Breeding Grey Partridges Perdix perdix on hill farms preferred Soft Rush-infested rough grazing which provided nesting cover and invertebrates for foraging chicks.
Aims: To measure habitat use, nest sites, chick diet and breeding productivity of Grey Partridge on hill farms in north east England.
Methods: We measured actual habitat use of radio-tagged individuals in relation to its availability both within home ranges and over the wider study area. Nesting habitat and breeding productivity data were collected from radio-tagged pairs. Faecal samples from roost sites of broods were collected to assess chick diet.
Results: Grey Partridges preferred rough grazing habitats. Sixty-nine per cent of nests were found in rough grazing with females preferring to nest in tall rushes which provided cover. Chick diet differed between habitats and in relation to brood age. In rough grazing, sawfly larvae were the most numerous item eaten by young (46%) and older broods (27%).
Conclusion: On hill farms, breeding Grey Partridges preferred rough grazings, where broods preferred sawfly larvae. It is important that rush-infested rough grazings are not agriculturally improved and grazing regimes that provide abundant sawfly larvae are practised.