Every partridge counts, successful techniques used in the captive conservation breeding programme for wild grey partridge in Ireland.
Between 1998 and 2001 the last remaining wild grey partridge (Perdix perdix) population in Ireland faced imminent extinction with an estimated spring population of 4–6 pairs, and an autumn population of 22–24 birds. A captive breeding programme began in 2002 with two pairs of grey partridge. In the most successful year in 2010, 39 pairs produced a total of 510 chicks. Average chick survival rate was 65.13%. At 88.9 the highest chick survival rate was achieved in 2011. Chick survival of parent–reared birds in captivity is defined by the number of juveniles surviving at age six weeks: similar to estimations used for wild populations of grey partridge. Family coveys were released in late summer to early autumn. In most instances the entire family cohort was released as one unit. However, in coveys of twenty or above, an average of five parent–reared poults were held back as breeding stock for the following year. In early spring of the following year, birds held back were paired with single males or females trapped from the wild. The techniques we used were traditional and labour intensive but highly effective. We recommend that other grey partridge recovery projects should consider captive breeding using the methods employed in this programme to compliment other game management methods used.