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What is a Partridge?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A partridge is a bird in the order Galliformes, particularly one from the genus Perdix. Alectoris, or Arborophila; the word “partridge” is actually derived from “Perdix.” These birds are close relatives of pheasants and grouse, and they are very popular game birds. Partridge meat is pale in color and gamy in flavor, and when well prepared, it can be flavorful, tender, and quite juicy. It can sometimes be difficult to obtain partridge meat unless one goes hunting, but in some regions, butchers will carry partridge, when in season.

Partridges are native to the Old World, where they have been pursued as game birds for centuries. European hunters were so enthusiastic about hunting partridge that when they colonized the New World, they brought the birds with them. Today, partridges are hunted wild and raised in preserves, ensuring a steady supply of the meat to demanding consumers and restaurants, and some people also keep tamed pet partridges as companions.

Like other Galliformes, partridges are rather plump, with heavy, muscular breasts. They come in a range of colors, depending on the partridge species under discussion, and the birds are generally around medium-sized. They are also nonmigratory, with limited flight abilities which lead the birds to nest on the ground. When startled, a partridge will typically fly up abruptly, in an attempt to evade its predator.

These birds are seed eaters, scraping the ground to access fallen seeds as well as pecking at growing plants. In areas where people want to encourage partridge populations to make hunting more enjoyable, seed will typically be scattered for the birds so that they do not wander off in search of food. The scattered seed also helps to plump the birds up, ensuring that they will meet expectations in the hunting season.

Cooking partridge can be tricky. As with other wild game birds, partridge has a tendency to be dry if it is cooked too long, and the slightly gamy flavor clashes with some sauces. Many cooks like to split the birds and grill them, although they can also be roasted whole. Cooking times are typically brief, and barding with lard or basting the birds can help to ensure that the meat stays moist and tender.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By upnorth31 — On Feb 03, 2011

I realize that we eat birds on a regular basis -- turkey and chicken -- but there's just something that doesn't sit right with me about eating a partridge. Maybe it's because I've sat in my backyard watching partridges eat seed. I suppose I wouldn't do well living on a farm that raised animals for food! I think I'll stick to buying mine from the grocery store.

By calpat — On Feb 01, 2011

I know a lot of hunters, but, somehow, I have never heard of hunting partridge. I'm surprised to hear that it is such a widespread thing. A partridge isn't very big, so it seems like it must be a pretty hard target to hit. Much smaller than a deer, for example.

On the other hand, I imagine it's a lot easier to clean than a deer. I'll have to ask my father-in-law if he's ever tried hunting partridge.

By vogueknit17 — On Jan 26, 2011

Partridges are also a part of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas, in which the first day's gift is a partridge in a pear tree. Of course, for most people now- especially kids- a partridge has to be explained because they have almost no concept of it, almost as much as they are often confused by the four calling birds mentioned later in the song, or "colly birds" as they were originally called, which is another name for blackbirds.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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