The Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) is a gamebird in the pheasant family Phasianidae of the order Galliformes, gallinaceous birds. It is sometimes known as French Partridge, to distinguish it from the Grey or English Partridge.
It is a rotund bird, with a light brown back, grey breast and buff belly. The face is white with a black gorget. It has rufous-streaked flanks and red legs. When disturbed, it prefers to run rather than fly, but if necessary it flies a short distance on rounded wings.
This partridge breeds naturally in southwestern Europe, in France and Iberia. It has become naturalised in flat areas of England and Wales, where it was introduced as a game species, and has been seen breeding as far north as Lancashire and Eastern Yorkshire and the western Isle of Man. It is replaced in southeastern Europe by the very similar Rock Partridge (Alectoris graeca). It is a non-migratory terrestrial species, which forms flocks outside the breeding season.
This species breeds on dry lowlands, such as farmland and open stony areas, laying its eggs in a ground nest.
There are three recognized subspecies:
- A. r. hispanica (Seoane, 1894) - northern and western Iberian Peninsula
- A. r. intercedens (Brehm, 1857) - eastern and southern Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands
- A. r. rufa (Linnaeus, 1758) - nominate - France, northwest Italy, Elba and Corsica
Adult Red-legged Partridges are sandy-brown above, pinkish-buff on the belly, and pale grey on the breast, with a prominent gorget of black streaking, bold rufous and black flank-bars, a cream throat, pink legs, and a red bill and eye ring.
The crown and upper nape of adult Red-legged Partridge are a warm pinkish-brown; the fore crown and lateral edges of the crown are pale blue-grey, and the bird has a narrow off-white supercilium running from above the lores to the sides of the lower nape. The lores have a solid bar of black feathering above a patch of pinkish-red skin. This black colouration continues behind the eye, where it broadens, and then extends down around the throat-patch to meet the upper edge of the gorget. There is a patch of pale buff-brown feathering on the ear-coverts, adjoining the black. The eye is surrounded by a bright red eye-ring.
The chin and upper throat are creamy-white, and are bordered behind and below by a solid black gorget. The black colour continues down onto the lower throat as a patch of broad triangular black streaks on a pale sandy-grey background. Similar, but narrower, black streaks are present on a pale blue-grey background on the upper neck-sides, while the lower neck-sides are warm pinkish-brown. The breast is pale blue-grey, and the belly pinkish-buff. The flanks are marked with bold bright rufous-brown bars, typically between eight and ten; each bar has a narrow black leading edge, the background colour is off-white in front of each bar, and pale grey behind. The upper parts are plain, unmarked dark sandy-grey. The uppertail-coverts are similar in colour, and contrast with the pinkish-rufous tail-feathers.
The bill is bright red, the iris is medium brown, and the legs are pinkish-red.
Cultivation and consumption
Red-legged Partridge are bred for shooting, and sold and eaten as game.