It’s all about habitats. Among all the threats listed for some 8,000 species assessed by IUCN, 83% were due to loss, pollution or other disruption of habitats.
The Grey Partridge was once common but has disappeared across much of Europe due to changes in farmland habitats, through removal of field margins and of plants from crops with herbicides, and changes in grassland management that benefitted predators. Even road verges have been tamed, still losing their wild flower reservoirs to mowing even if they are no longer sprayed, with parks and gardens tidied and sprayed too. No wonder we are still losing our bees and butterflies as well as partridges, which need insect food for their young and seeds from wild-flowers throughout the year.
This is a responsibility for all of us, because we can all influence how councils manage road verges and amenity areas. Verges especially are important for preserving wild plants and helping their slow natural spread, which can be aided by restoration work. Verges also help to link up the areas where sympathetic habitat management by farmers and gardeners has preserved pockets of wildflowers, for instance with “river of flowers” projects. The peak of success would be to have good enough wildflower habitats to restore partridges again: could yours be the first local project listed on our About page? How about sowing some seeds of Fat Hen, the natural seed food for so many wild birds in Britain?
Habitat, habitat, habitat
Partridges need habitat for breeding, for feeding through the year and for keeping safe from predators. The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust has provided useful general guidance on conserving the Grey Partridge, also with some especially for farmers and hunters. Leaflets are also available on the special habitat requirements for breeding, for brood-rearing and for the winter.
Although unmanaged road verges can preserve important winter food plants, like the Fat Hen (Chenopodium) on the left, they are hardly safe places for birds to feed. Where natural or planted food is inadequate in winter, there is guidance from GWCT on making feed hoppers and placing the hoppers for minimal disturbance from rats, larger mammals and corvids.