Can the Irish grey partridge (perdix perdix) be saved? A national conservation strategy.
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The grey partridge, Perdix perdix, is endemic to Ireland and has been declining since 1850. A contraction of range has occurred in the past 30 years with 3% of the country recording birds in 1991. The decline has continued through the 1990s with many populations disappearing. In 1995 partridge were only in two areas outside County Wexford. Both these populations were on cutaway bogland under natural recolonisation. The total number of wild partridge was < 100 pairs in 1995. The objective of this study was to suggest a conservation strategy for the remaining birds. Radio telemetry studies (HEARSHAW, 1996) revealed low breeding success within these populations with hooded crow, Corvus corone cornix, predation responsible for most losses. Radio-collared birds preferred cutaway bogland as opposed to surrounding farmland. Within cutaways railway lines were most preferred. Insufficient young birds were produced to compensate for natural loss. Management of one wild population in 1994 and 1995 involving hooded crow and red fox, Vulpes vulpes, control from February to June has resulted in an increase in partridges. Paris selected territories on farmland for the first time in 1995. Release of captive reared by 1992 and 1993 on two farmland sites was ineffective. All birds died within days of release. Releases on one cutaway was more successful with good winter survival after 60-70% initial losses in the first 2 weeks. Adoption of released birds by wild barren pairs may have improved survival. The conservation strategy for grey partridges involves continued management of the remnant population using traditional methods. Release of birds in depleted populations is continuing as is radio tracking of wild birds.