In Edwardian times there were more than a million grey partridge roaming the British countryside, by the early 1990s this had dropped to 145,000 grey partridges, and today estimates suggest that this figure has halved again.

However, the GCT, as lead partner in the Government’s Biodiversity Action Plan for grey partridge, has devised a five-point plan for saving this once familiar farmland bird.

“The wet summer has been a total wash-out for young partridge chicks struggling for survival and urgent conservation action needs to be taken by all those with a responsibility for managing the British countryside,” warns Dr. Nick Sotherton, head of research with the Trust.

The Trust’s five point plan to save the grey includes:

1. HABITAT: Create suitable habitat – partridges need both nesting cover and brood rearing cover for food and shelter. Farmers and land managers can benefit financially under the government’s Entry Level Scheme and Higher Level Scheme for creating habitats for grey partridge and other farmland birds.

2. PREDATlON: Grey partridges are ground-nesting birds and are therefore more susceptible to a greater range of predators.

3. WINTER FOOD: Provide additional winter food during the leanest months of winter by placing feeders at strategic points.

4. KEEP COUNTING: The GCT’s Grey Partridge Count Scheme is the largest farmer-led monitoring scheme in Europe and it is showing a 40% increase in partridge numbers on land managed by farmers who have adopted the GCT’s recommendations.

5. BE SELECTIVE WITH SPRAYS: To help farmland bird chicks the GCT advises that the use of these insecticides, especially organophosphates should be reduced to benefit farmland birds.

But it’s not all bad news for the grey partridge, as Nick Sotherton explains, “We now have more than 1,000 people counting partridges across the country. In addition, they are making an astonishing recovery on our Grey Partridge Recovery Project on farmland near Royston in Hertfordshire. Since the introduction of habitat management, predator control, and feeding there has been an extraordinary six-fold increase in grey partridges. But a lot more needs to be done to reverse the national decline. We hope this message will act as the catalyst that will inspire more people to get involved in saving this delightful gamebird.”

To obtain copies of The Game Conservancy Trust’s free ‘fact sheets’ outlining how to restore wild grey partridges, please contact, Louise Shervington, The Game Conservancy Trust, Telephone. 01425 651002 or email: lshervington@gct.org.uk