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Red-legged Partridge

Introduced to replace the declining native grey partridge for shooting 

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Red-legged Partridge: the French connection

With our native grey partridge now really scarce in Dorset if you see a partridge on farmland it is most likely going to be the red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa). That said, seeing a partridge at all in Dorset is not a common sight.

The red-legged is far more colourful than its grey counterpart and so identification should not be too difficult and if you do not get a clear view you will find that when disturbed the grey will readily take flight whereas the red-legged is far more likely to stay on the ground and run away in a small group (a covey).

If you are going to find partridge then it will almost certainly be on farmland as they are, of course, bred for shooting on estates and farms. Without this captive breeding for 'sport' there would be no partridge at all now as the red-legged was introduced for that very purpose. The species originates from southern France and Iberia and not being native they can suffer from the British climate and in bad weather in summer young birds frequently perish if wet and cold. Supplied food helps them trough the winter.

The red-legged partridge is also known as the French partridge because of the area of their origin.



Common Name Red-legged Partridge
Scientific Name Alectoris rufa
Species Group Birds Game
Status Feral
Interest Level
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Look for

Rounded, dumpy game bird around field margins

Identification Notes
  • Bred solely for shooting and so most likely to be seen around country estates and farm fields
  • By far the most likely partridge to be seen now as the native grey partridge is now very scarce
  • Much more colourful than the grey partridge with distinctive white facial markings 
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Game