Galliformes.part-4 Partridge,Quail and Grouse. { Bird Orders}

The Grey Partridge Perdix perdix

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Black Francolin

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Introduction.

In part four looking at the Bird order Galliformes we review the Partridge Grouse and Quail. They are another group of birds typical of the order. The Quail has been reviewed in greater detail in my series ' Birds of Europe', thus is only mentioned here in general terms.

Grouse are placed in the family Phasianidae and the sub family Teraonidae within the order. They occur in several genera,including Bonasa,Falcipennis,Centrocercus,Lagapus,Tetrao and Tympanchus. We Commence with the family Tetraonidae

The only general characteristic which Cuvier mentions {see footnote below}, as being applicable to the whole of these birds,is that of having a naked band of skin over the eye,and this band is generally of a red colour. The tint of this colouring tends to be in proportion of the birds general health.

This family in one of the numerous genera,and species which comprise them,are generally distributed across the globe.Their flesh is regarded as both delicate and richly flavoured and therefore they are highly prized for the table. On this account they are hunted as game in all parts of the world.

The three prominent groups are Grouse Partridges and Quails. In general the Quails inhabit most southerly latitudes,the partridges next and the grouse in one or other species,the most northerly. They are however, at times found incorporated together in the same latitude,though not exactly the same locality. The Quails inhabit lower down where the climate is warmest and the Partridges a little more elevated although it is not easy to draw a define a line between them and the Quails. There are the true Partridges which have a short bill and tail and no produced spurs on the tarsi. The Francolin's which have the bill and tail produced and spurs on the tarsi { Asian species } and another group in the genus Colinus of America which include species such as the Northern Bobwhite. We commence the review of the species with the Grey Partridge

Female Northern Bobwhite Oklahoma USA

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Grey Partridge on a grey day in Scotland

Originally posted to Flickr.{Rainbirder}
Originally posted to Flickr.{Rainbirder} | Source

The Grey Partridge

The general characteristics of the Grey partridge Perdix perdix are as follows. The bill is short,stout,compressed,and naked at the base. The upper mandible arched,convex,and curved towards the tip. The nostrils at the base of the bill latral and half covered by an arched membrane, The length of the bird is about thirteen inches.

The three front toes united by a membrane as far as the first articulation. The tail consists of fourteen or eighteen feathers and is short,rounded at the extreme and drooping downwards,its wings are also short and rounded.

The male when in good condition and full grown has hazel eyes. The bill is bluish white,in the young yellowish. The legs of the adult are a dark bluish white when young yellowish. The general colour is ash brown,elegantly mixed with black and each feather is streaked down the middle by a buff colouring. The chin ,cheeks and forehead are tawny and palest in the female.

Under each eye there is a spot,with small warty excrescences,and above and behind the ye towards the ear conspicuous ,except in old birds. The legs of the male are furnished with a black spur or projection behind,and the breast has a crescent of a deep chestnut colour. The mark is lacking in the female and her feathers are in general not so distinct or as bright.

Habitat and food of the Grey Partridge.

The greater number reside in fields and in open tracts of land,with the exception of some,which prefer the outskirts of woods in the neighbourhood of water. Their food consists of grain,seeds,bulbous plants,insects and worms. They run more frequently, than fly. They rise with a loud alarm note when disturbed and usually keep low and descend again to cover at the first opportunity.The wings make a typical whirring noise when on the wing.

They have numerous broods generally. The young as soon as they are hatched,run about-indeed they are often observed running with a portion of shell adhering to their bodies.Partridges pair about the third week in February,and sometimes after being paired,if the weather is extremely severe,they all gather together and again form a covey.

They begin to lay about five to six weeks after becoming paired up. Ray the renouned naturalist, stated " There are one third more male than female partridges hatched,and he also wrote that it is well known the Old male will drive off the young males off the ground and afterwards fight until they kill each other. In this respect thy differ from the larger relatives the Pheasant,they have a range to themselves,while the Pheasants will hatch and live quietly with the broods close together"


Grey partridge, winter

Illustration courtesy of Archibald Thorburn
Illustration courtesy of Archibald Thorburn | Source

Breeding ,nest and Eggs of the Grey Partridge

The female lays her eggs on the ground,scraping together a few pieces of grass and/or decayed leaves,which are spread roughly in the hollow,these are often formed by the feet of cattle or horses. The scrape is sometimes placed under a hedge or on a bank with tall vegetation,or in a corn field.

The number of eggs laid range from 15-20 and are of a greenish-grey colour. The number of eggs produced is much less when the bird is young or very old, and this is invariably the case when the first clutch has been lost and there is a replacement clutch laid. The survival of the chicks is highly dependent on the weather at the time of hatching. When the season is dry during May and June the Partridge are plentiful,conversely should the weather conditions be wet,and cold,a great number of chicks perish. The cold weather takes what little strength the chicks had in their legs and they perish as the mother attempts to lead them in search of life-saving food, which in such conditions is hard to procure.

Partridges have other dangers to consider, Weasels,Stoats,Crows,dogs,rats and other mammals all steal the eggs,and in days gone by a great many were taken by poachers or indeed by the farmers themselves.These are some of the reasons that the birds of this order tend to produce so many eggs,they are fortunate if half the number of eggs laid in a season produce healthy offspring which attain adulthood.

To those chicks that do survive,the mother shows a great affection,and both parents lead them out and guide them to food. Should this family covey be taken by surprise the male will signal a cry of alarm. he will then try to lure his enemy away from his charges by running along the ground often hanging his wing down so as to appear injured. The female will fly off in a different direction,and to a greater distance,but soon after secretly returning she will find her scattered brood closely squatting among the grass,and leads them away from danger,before the enemy has returned from its vain attempt to catch the male.

Other species of partridges are found throughout their range.

Partridges with chicks

Grouse

Grouse are placed in the sub-family of the Phasianidae -the Tetraonidae, and are basically divided into three sub-genera or sections. Tetrao,in which the toes are bare of feathers,Bonasa,in which the toes and tarsi are feathered on the upper sides and Lagopus in which they are feathered down to and also under and between the toes. All have them have the tarsi feathered which forms a distinction between grouse and partridges.

All the grouse are highly interesting birds as they inhabit the wild places only and do no harm to man a fact that can not be stated in reverse.They have long been hunted ,trapped and shot and provided food for the dinner table.

The Black grouse and the Capercaiilie have been reviewed in detail in my series ' Birds of Europe'and so are omitted here. We commence with the Dusty grouse Dendragapus obscurus, which is one of the larger grouse species of North America. It seems to agree in most particulars with the Black grouse {of Europe},in size and colour,it is very nearly the same as the European species,however,the tail of the male bird is very differently formed. It consists of twenty broad feathers,the tips of which are individually rounded,as is also the general outline of the bird.

The colours of the female also resemble those of the the females of the European species,only there is more white mottling on the chin. The form of the tail in the Dusty grouse indicates a more constant habit of ascending and descending than that of the Black grouse,a more woodland bird. The birds are found in the elevated places of the rocky Mountains and from south east Alaska and Yukon south to New Mexico and is associated with coniferous forests.


Dusky grouse Dendragapus obscurus, formerly Tetrao obscurus.

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Sharp-tailed grouse.

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The Sharp-tailed grouse.

The Sharp tailed grouse,Tympanchus phasianellus,formerly Tetrao phasianellus is remarkable for the narrow and pointed form of the tail. It is another American species also known by an alternative name of 'Fire grouse'. They historically occupied eight Canadian Provinces and twenty one US states pre European settlement. They ranged as far north as Alaska,south to Carolina and New Mexico and east to Quebec

However,since European settlement the species has been extirpated from California,Kansas,Illinois,Iowa,Nevada and New Mexico.

The male is sixteen inches long. The ground colour is blackish with markings of a rust colour and white. The female is rather smaller than the male and mottled with black and rusty yellow. The nest is a simple and placed in the cover of some bush. The female deposits her eggs which are white with blackish spots. The young when hatched utter a piping noise resembling that of chickens. When full grown and in good condition the birds weigh about two pounds.

Hazel grouse

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Hazel grouse Tetrastes bonasia Formerly placed in the genus Bonasia.

The feathers of the head are somewhat long but the species is much disposed to break into accidental varieties. The upper part is brown with red,black and white spots. The bird is about fourteen inches long. It is a bird of mountainous regions and found generally in elevated woods throughout Europe,Northern Eurasia as far east as Hokkaido,in damp dense mixed coniferous woodland preferably containing some spruce.

It nests on the ground and the female deposits 3-6 eggs and she rears her family alone. The flesh of this bird was much prized and it was reputed to be the only bird upon which a German prince will consent to feast twice in succession.

Eggs of the Red Grouse

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Red grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica

The Red grouse formerly know by the scientific name of Tetrao scoticus has a general colouring of chestnut brown. The eyebrow is notched,very elevated,the caruncle on the brow crescent shaped and scarlet. It has sixteen feathers in the tail,the external ones black at the bases.

The female is less bright with zigzag black lines,and little or no red in the eyebrow. The young are bright russet with black stripes and spots. The length of the male is sixteen inches and they weigh about one and a quarter pounds.

They inhabit open heaths and not woods,remaining on the ground and never perching. They occur in mountainous regions of Northern England and are much more plentiful in Scotland and on Moor-land and Heath-land of the northern Britain in general.

The female lays her eggs,which are not unlike those of the Black grouse in a scrape in the ground. The young when hatched continue to stay with her until winter,when they tend to unite in flocks. The species is endemic to Britain and Ireland and is sometimes considered to be a sub-species of the Willow ptarmigan. The species in Ireland,which are slight;y paler than the British ones,have also been referred to as a sub-species of L.l.hibernia.

There are many other species of grouse to numerous to cover here and live in the temperate and sub-Arctic regions of the northern hemisphere from pine forests to moor-/heath land and mountains, from the Rock ptarmigan in Greenland to the Attwater's prairie chicken in Texas.USA.


Red Grouse on the Yorkshire Moors northern England.

Originally posted to Flickr.
Originally posted to Flickr. | Source

Footnote-Cuvier.

Cuvier,known generally as Georges Cuvier was a French naturalist and Zoologist and a major figure in the early 19th century, who expanded on the Linnaean taxonomy by grouping class into Phyla,and incorporating both fossils and living species into his classification.

Some of Cuvier's most influential followers were Louis Agassiz on the Continent and in America and Rowland Owen in England. His name is one of the seventy two names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.

Georges Cuvier

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4 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 16 months ago from Lancashire north west England Author

DDE,

hello Devika nice to see you here. Thank you for your kind and encouraging comments and your Vote up,appreciated. Best wishes to you.


DDE profile image

DDE 16 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

I have not seen this bird but have learned from you. Voted up!


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 16 months ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Hi Deb,

Glad to hear you saw your Bobwhite quail. Love the name Lone Chimney Lake. Best wishes to you.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 16 months ago from Stillwater, OK

I also find these gorgeous birds fascinating. You will be pleased to know that I finally saw the Bobwhite Quail a few weeks ago, in a most unlikely area for years, due to dry conditions. This is the year to put that area on the map again, which is called Lone Chimney Lake.

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