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The debate continues: Why are redlegs flying low?

The gamefarming industry has reacted with anger at claims that they are responsible for producing low-flying partridges. This follows recent controversial reports that many of the birds are failing to fly at a decent height. Commentators have said that the change in behaviour could be due to a number of reasons including pellets fed to the partridges when they are chicks, French gamefarmers selectively breeding from chukar bloodlines and wet weather.

Gamefeed manufacturers have refuted these claims, however. Richard Leach of Keepers Choice gamefeed told Shooting Times that wet weather is a more likely cause: “There is no doubt that where feed intake is tiny the food has to be formulated to a very high specification in order for the chicks to thrive. Problems can start when birds go off their feed. This can be for a whole variety of reasons. For example, it can be caused by a chill leading to birds not feeding properly and being released underweight. If the time then allowed between release and shooting isn’t sufficient for the birds to recuperate and gain weight, the Guns could be faced with birds fl ying below par.”

French gamefarmers have also refuted claims that they are selectively breeding from chukar bloodlines rather than pure redlegs. Roger Luckin is the UK sales executive for Gibovendée, a gamefarm based near Nantes, in France, which produces 27million eggs a year. He said the French are being used as scapegoats: “The accusation that French gamefarmers are cross-breeding red-legged partridges with chukar partridges is nonsense. The birds that come out of France are pure-bred redlegs. Gamekeepers are far more likely to receive chukar hybrids if they buy their eggs from Spain or North Africa. In my opinion, the principal reason for poor-flying partridges is wet weather. Partridges do not cope as well as pheasants in continuous rain. Last year, when most partridges were released we had two to three weeks of continuous rain, which weakened the birds’ immune system. It would only take one hot summer for my theory to be proved right.”

The rest of this article appears in 30 April issue of Shooting Times.

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