Predation on Partridges
Predator management, whether exclusion or control, can be expensive and time-consuming. It therefore cannot be considered in isolation. The impact of individual predator species on population trends and potential harvests needs to be understood in order to decide what a particular species costs you, and hence how much effort and spending on that species is justified. Habitat management is important too, because improving habitat can be a very cost-effective way of managing predation in the long term. Please visit the links above for more information.
In the UK, experiments and guidance for projects has shown that strong management of foxes and corvids can, together with improvements in food for chicks and overwinter, reverse partridge declines enough for shooting. Foxes and corvids benefit from worms in grassland. So too do badgers and buzzards, which are protected. From a predation perspective, partridges are therefore likely to do best in areas with less grassland as well as few trees, from which protected sparrowhawks and goshawks may launch attacks. Good cover is important for protecting partridges from all raptor attacks.
If it is decided that predators are to be removed, you must ensure that the effort is effective and legal. Before starting out on a predator control programme you should consider the following principles:
1. Only species that are allowed legally to be taken should be killed.
2. Protected species must not be targeted.
3. Only legally approved methods should be employed.
4. The objective is not to eliminate every predator. Your aim should be to reduce predator pressure during the crucial nesting and chick-rearing seasons to allow birds to breed more successfully.
5. Even on the best keepered land, birds are lost to predation, both
by protected species (e.g. raptors, and badgers in the UK) and by common species (foxes and crows). Management will at best reduce the impact of predators, for a time.
6. Control of partridge predators can be specifically targeted to the breeding period. A pair that has lost its first clutch will re-nest, so this period is from April to harvest time. Predator control should therefore be focused from late February to mid-July in the UK.
For more information, please see the full leaflet on "Using predation control to increase wild grey partridge numbers" provided by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). Further information on Grey Partridge management is available in the Royston and West Sussex projects, which followed careful predator-removal experiments on Salisbury Plain..
A great deal of further information is available on legal management of foxes and corvids is available on the GWCT web-site and in special publications.