The reintroduction of the grey partridge (perdix perdix) to Irish farmland: towards a methodology
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KAVANAGH, B.: THE REINTRODUCTION OF THE GREY PARTRIDGE (PERDIX PERDIX) TO IRISH FARMLAND: TOWARDS A METHODOLOGY. Restocking of grey partridge, using game farm reared birds, never been successful in establishing a wild breeding population. Little information is available on the precise reasons for this failure. While the importation or translocation of wild caught birds to new areas has had limited success, this option has not been possible in Ireland in recent time. The aim of this project is to investigate and develop a methodology for the reintroduction of partridges using game farm stocks in a captive breeding programme based on a combination of the ‘Montabello’ and ‘Euston’ systems, used in the 19th century. The project is based on the hypothesis that partridges reared by parents will be better adapted to breed in the wild than birds reared from incubators. The study area is 1,000 hectares of mixed farmland in County Kildare. Two 7×3 m permanent pens were erected on each of three sites in the centre of the study area in autumn 1996. The sites were separated by 1 km from each other. An additional portable pen 5×2,5 m was erected at each site in spring 1998 bringing the total number of breeding pens to nine. In autumn 1996 twenty-five game farm reared partridges were released from each site. Forty birds survived to covey break up in February 1997. Three cocks and two hens were retrapped in spring using unreleased birds in the pens to attract mates. Thus five of the six pairs formed were composed of a retrapped and a previously unreleased bird while the sixth pen was filled an unreleased pair. All six penned pairs mated, all hens set nets and incubated. Hatching success was poor. Four chicks survived from two pens. Ten pairs of partridge were recorded in the study area from the previous autumn release. No chicks survived from these ten pairs outside the pens. Excessively wet weather during late incubation and hatching was responsible for most losses in the pens. In autumn 1997 seventy five game farm birds were released once again bringing the total autumn population to 100 birds in 1997. Thirty seven birds survived to spring 1998. Two cocks and two hens were retrapped and paired with unreleased mates. Four additional pairs from unreleased birds were placed in pens. Eggs were removed for incubation and replaced with dummy eggs. Twenty incubated eggs were then returned to the sitting hen at the piping stage. The outcome of this programme is reported.