(Tetrao Perdix, Linn.—La Perdrix Grise, Buff.)
LENGTH about thirteen inches. Bill light brown: eyes hazel; the general colour of its plumage is brown and ash, beautifully mixed with black; each feather streaked down the middle with buff; the sides of the head are tawny; under each eye is a small saffron-coloured spot, which has a granulated appearance, and between the eye and the ear a naked skin of a bright scarlet, which is not very conspicuous but in old birds; on the breast there is a crescent of a deep chesnut; the tail is short and drooping: the legs are greenish white, and furnished with a small knob behind. The female has no crescent on the breast, and her colours in general are not so distinct and bright as those of the male. The moult takes place once a year.
Partridges are found chiefly in temperate climates; the extremes of heat and cold being equally unfavourable to them: they are no where in greater plenty than in this island, where, in their season, they contribute to our entertainments. It is much to be regretted, however, that the means taken to preserve this valuable bird should in a variety of instances, prove its destruction: the proper guardians of the eggs and young ones, tied down by ungenerous restrictions, are led to consider them as a growing evil, and not only connive at their destruction, but too frequently assist in it.
Partridges pair early in the spring, and once united it is rare that any thing but death separates them: the female lays from fourteen to eighteen or twenty eggs, making her nest of dry leaves and grass upon the ground. The young birds run as soon as hatched, frequently encumbered with part of the shell. It is no unusual thing to introduce Partridge's eggs under the Common Hen, who hatches and rears them as her own: in this case the young birds require to be fed with ants' eggs, which are their favourite food, and without which it is almost impossible to bring them up; they likewise eat insects, and when full grown, all kinds of grain and young plants. The affection of the Partridge for her young is peculiarly strong and lively; she is greatly assisted in the care of rearing them by her mate: they lead them out in common, call them together, gather for them their proper food, and assist in finding it by scratching the ground; they frequently sit close by each other, covering the chickens with their wings, like the Hen. In this situation they are not easily flushed; the sportsman, who is attentive to the preservation of his game, will carefully avoid giving any disturbance to a scene so truly interesting; but should the pointer come too near, or unfortunately run in upon them, there are few who are ignorant of the confusion that follows: the male first gives the signal of alarm by a peculiar cry of distress, throwing himself at the same moment more immediately in the way of danger, in order to deceive or mislead the enemy; lie flies, or rather runs, along the ground, hanging his wings, and exhibiting every symptom of debility, whereby the dog is decoyed, in the too eager expectation of an easy prey, to a distance from the covey; the female flies off in a contrary direction, and to a greater distance, but re turning soon after by secret ways, she finds her scattered brood closely squatted among the grass, and collecting them with haste, leads them from the danger, before the dog has had time to return from his pursuit.
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