Partridge numbers plummet
As the partridge shooting season begins, nature lover Chris Skinner highlights the worrying decline of grey partridges in Norfolk.
Grey partridge faces decline (Credit: RSPB)
The shooting season for partridges and ducks traditionally starts on the first day of September, shortly followed by pheasants at the beginning of October.
At a time where farmers and sportsmen will load their guns and take aim, it should be recognised that partridges are a dying species.
There are two different types of partridge found in England, the English grey partridge and the French red-legged variety.
Numbers of the grey partridge dropped by 87 percent between 1967 and 2004, and it is believed the trend has continued.
"Circumstances we don't quite fully understand means it (the grey partridge) has been red listed - which means it is a bird causing grave conservation concern," said Chris Skinner from High Ash farm in Caister St Edmund near Norwich.
"To be red listed you need to have declined in population by 50 percent or more in the last 25 years.
Chris Skinner wants changes to be made
"The grey partridge qualifies for this almost two times over because there's more than 80 percent decline in the species number," he added.
One explanation is that the bird is shot for a month longer than pheasants, starting in September and running until February.
"I think as farmers, land owners and sportsmen we are letting the species down," said Mr Skinner.
"They need formal protection either a moratorium for five or six years, or to stop shooting them all together - you can't carry on harvesting a species in such decline," he added.
On the plate
Another reason for the decline could be the birds' growing popularity as a delicacy in top restaurants.
"Tonight, there are 50 brace that left Norwich station, shot today - they will be on the plate in London restaurants for £70 per head," said Chris.
Whatever the reason, the numbers of grey partridges in the wild are diminishing and something will need to be done to address the trend.
last updated: 03/09/2008 at 17:45