Intensive farming, particularly the use of herbicides and pesticides, has been blamed for an 80 per cent decline in the grey partridge population in the last 40 years. The re-establishment recommendations are seen as the ‘final link’ in the GWCT’s efforts to reverse this decline. The recommendations give guidance as to the suitability of land on which the birds are to be released, techniques for fostering birds and good rearing practice.

The guidelines are in line with internationally accepted procedures for reintroductions produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Professor Robert Kenward, chair for Europe of the Sustainable Use Specialist Groupe (Europe) of IUCN, said: “I was greatly impressed by the GWCT re-establishment guidelines. By combining an enormous volume of research into straightforward guidelines for grey partridge, the GWCT has set a precedent in simplification for others to follow.

“We badly need such condensations of information to encourage effective restoration of species that have often been lost unwittingly. Otherwise, we shall not merely lose opportunities to restore species, but also continue to lose biodiversity.”

Dr. Nick Sotherton, director of research with the GWCT, commented: “These re-establishment guidelines are the culmination of three years of intensive research and are the final piece in the puzzle to manage their recovery.

“With increasing urgency to deliver the Government’s Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) target for grey partridges, we can now show how to put them back where they have disappeared. But this is no easy fix. To re-establish a wild population based on these guidelines depends on a lot of hard work together with a big investment in time.”

Dr. Francis Bruner, leader of the research, continues: “There are now huge tracts of our countryside that no longer hold grey partridges, but despite being a notoriously difficult bird to re-establish, our guidelines show the art of the possible.

“Re-establishing a wild population where they are no longer present is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but once the right habitats have been created and feeding and predator control are being maintained, we feel confident that many farmers and landowners will be able to have wild partridges on their land again.

“This will be a fantastic achievement and the Trust will continue to offer advice and support to those undertaking this challenge.”