The Red-legged Partridge is a colorful game bird which is becoming a familiar sight in southern England. Its range outside Britain is restricted to southwestern Europe.
Red-legged Partridges can be found in a wide variety of habitats – farmland, heathland, shingle beaches and dunes, so, if you have a garden in any of these habitat areas, do not be surprised to see one of these birds wander across the lawn!
Red-legged Partridge is a rounder-looking bird than the Grey Partridge, and often the Redlegged appears more upright than the Grey. ‘Redlegs’ show a more striking head pattern, a plainer back and more complex underpart markings than Grey Partridge.
The bill is short and cherry-red in color. The eye is dark brown with a red orbital ring, while the legs are, of course, red.
Red-legged Partridge shows a grey-brown crown and nape, contrasting markedly with the bold white supercilia and throat patch. The cheeks are brownish, while the lores and border of the throat are black. The black becomes spotted on the ear-coverts and upper breast, so forming an obvious ‘necklace’. The upperparts, with the exception of dark wing tips and orangey tail sides, are dull olive-brown.
The upper breast of the Red-legged Partridge is warm brown, merging into an ashy-grey lower breast, fading to a rich orange on the belly and undertail. The flanks are a mix of black, white, red and blue bars.
The whirring wings are always a giveaway! Red-legged Partridges fly quickly and low on decidedly bowed-looking wings. As they fly away from you, the orange on the tail is particularly striking. Red-legged Partridges do have a habit of running more than flying, and, as they run, the loud rasping ‘chuck, chuck, chukak’ call will usually be heard.
When seen from behind, the Red-legged Partridge remains utterly distinctive. The back of the head is strongly marked with white and black, while the flank bars are easy to see. The short wings reveal the buffy rump and orangey tail.
The juvenile Red-legged Partridge resembles a pale, faded version of the adult. The face pattern is very faint, the supercilia and throat are buffywhite, the ‘necklace’ is replaced by sparse grey mottling, while the rest of the head, mantle, rump and central tail are dull grey-brown. The wings are blotched with black and white. The outer tail is chestnut.
This juvenile shows the buff-brown upper breast, the pale blue lower breast and pink belly. The flanks are barred whitish and brown. The bare parts show a greyish bill, black eye and dull fleshy-pink legs.