The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has advised shooters to refrain from shooting grey partridges this season unless they have more than 20 birds per 250 acres.

The suggestion comes after the disastrous breeding season in 2012.

Dr Julie Ewald, a senior scientist with the GWCT, told Shooting Times: “The voluntary ban on shooting greys last winter was widely adopted by Partridge Count Scheme (PCS) members and as a result the average overwinter survival across all sites was 46%. This is slightly above rates recorded in the previous four years of 37% to 43%.”

“Everyone who refrained from shooting and minimized accidental losses should be congratulated as it will certainly have helped boost this spring’s breeding density. The PCS received 714 counts, which represented an area of 216,800ha.”

“A total of 7,391 grey partridge pairs were recorded and this equates to a 45% fall from last year owing to low densities last autumn, which followed a spring when the 13,414 pairs recorded were the second highest on record for the PCS.”

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“PCS members have achieved considerable successes with grey partridges over the past decade and this success has been highlighted in the British Trust for Ornithology’s most recent Breeding Bird Survey.”

“Its report for 2011-12 found a significant 21% increase in breeding grey partridges across England, but unfortunately because of the poor breeding season last year its 2012-13 report will undoubtedly show a decline.”

Andrew Finn-Kelcey, a farmer near Olney, in Buckinghamshire, told Shooting Times: “We’ve had ideal conditions for the grey partridge this spring and we’ve counted a brood of 16, so this year looks to be a good one. However, the birds need more time to recover from 2012’s season. This spring we saw noticeably more pairs than usual.”

“This used to be prime grey partridge country, with old pasture, but the winter of 1963 really affected the population for us. It’s remarkable that so many survived last winter. The grass margins and supplementary feeding have definitely improved the grey partridge numbers.”