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Crested wood partridge (Rollulus rouloul)
Crested wood partridge
(Rollulus rouloul)
Scientific classificationEdit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Superfamily: Phasianoidea
Family: Phasianidae
Groups included


A partridge is a medium-sized galliform bird in any of several genera, with a wide native distribution throughout parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. Several species have been introduced to the Americas. They are sometimes grouped in the Perdicinae subfamily of the Phasianidae (pheasants, quail, etc.). However, molecular research suggests that partridges are not a distinct taxon within the family Phasianidae, but that some species are closer to the pheasants, while others are closer to the junglefowl.[1]

Birds of Persia luchas, called būqalamūn (بوقلمون turkey in Persian), and partridges
The so-called "Vučedol dove", one of the most well-known emblems of the prehistorical Vučedol culture, is now interpreted as representing a male partridge as a symbol of fertility


Partridges are medium-sized game birds, generally intermediate in size between the larger pheasants, smaller quail; they're ground-dwelling birds that feature variable plumage colouration across species, with most tending to grey and brown.

Range and habitat[edit]

Partridges are native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Some species are found nesting on steppes or agricultural land, while other species prefer more forested areas. They nest on the ground and have a diet consisting of seeds and insects.


Species such as the grey partridge and the red-legged partridge are popular as game birds, and are often reared in captivity and released for the purpose of hunting. For the same reason, they have been introduced into large areas of North America.

Red-legged partridge.
Chestnut-bellied partridge.
Scaly-breasted partridge.
Grey partridge.

Cultural references[edit]

According to Greek legend, the first partridge appeared when Daedalus threw his apprentice, Talos, off the sacred hill of Athena in a fit of jealous rage. Supposedly mindful of his fall, the bird does not build its nest in the trees, nor take lofty flights and avoids high places.[2]

As described by medieval scholar Madeleine Pelner Cosman, medical practitioners in the Middle Ages recommended partridge as a food of love: They suggested that "Partridge was superior in arousing dulled passions and increasing the powers of engendering. Gentle to the human stomach, partridge stimulated bodily fluids, raised the spirits, and firmed the muscles."[3]

Probably the most famous reference to the partridge is in the Christmas carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas".[4] The first gift listed is "a partridge in a pear tree", and these words end each verse. Since partridges are unlikely to be seen in pear trees (they are ground-nesting birds)[5] it has been suggested that the text "a pear tree" is a corruption of the French "une perdrix" (a partridge).[6]

The partridge has also been used as a symbol that represents Kurdish nationalism. It is called Kew. Sherko Kurmanj discusses the paradox of symbols in Iraq as an attempt to make a distinction between the Kurds and the Arabs. He says that while Iraqis generally regards the palm tree, falcon, and sword as their national symbols, the Kurds consider the oak, partridge, and dagger as theirs.[7]

Species list in taxonomic order[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kimball, R. T.; Braun, E. L.; Zwartjes, P. W.; Crowe, T. M.; Ligon, J. D. (1999). "Molecular phylogenetics and evolution: A molecular phylogeny of the pheasants and partridges". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 11 (1): 38–54. doi:10.1006/mpev.1998.0562. PMID 10082609.
  2. ^ Holmes, Richard (2013). Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air. HarperCollins. p. 1760. ISBN 9780007467259. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  3. ^ Cosman, Madeleine Pelner (1 July 1983). "A Feast for Aesculapius: Historical Diets for Asthma and Sexual Pleasure". Annual Review of Nutrition. 3 (1): 1–34. doi:10.1146/annurev.nu.03.070183.000245. ISSN 0199-9885. PMID 6357233. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  4. ^ The Associated Press (November 26, 2012). "'12 days of Christmas' cost: How much is a partridge in a pear tree?". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  5. ^ "Do partridges occur in pear trees?". All About Birds. 20 December 2009. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  6. ^ Lawson-Jones, Mark (2011). Why Was the Partridge in the Pear Tree?. The History Press. p. 55. ISBN 9780752477503.
  7. ^ Kurmanj, Sherko (2014). "The Roots of Modern Kurdish Nationalism". In Bengio, Ofra (ed.). Kurdish Awakening: Nation Building in a Fragmented Homeland. University of Texas Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-292-75813-1.

External links[edit]