L 28-32 cm. Breeds in open farmland with some hedges and other shelter, preferably in or beside cultivated fields; also meadowland. Has declined greatly in Britain. Resident. Terrestrial. Gregarious, flocks keep tightly together. Nervous and wary. Freezes or runs away in good time. Food seeds and leaves. Nests on ground; clutch large, 10-20 eggs.
IDENTIFICATION: Compact, rounded body and small, rounded head. Usually encountered as an entire flock is flushed, all at once, and with excited calls and noisy, rapid series of wingbeats and short stiff-winged glides, flies a short way low over the ground; the image caught is of grey-brown birds with rusty-red on the tail. Seen closer, this is a handsome bird, with orange-brown ‘face’ and throat, chestnut-brown flank-bars, delicately vermiculated ash-grey breast and a large horseshoe-shaped blackish-brown belly patch. Sexes similar (male ‘cleaner’, with better-marked pattern). female's belly patch smaller, less clear. - Juvenile: Yellow-brown and grey-brown; lacks orange throat, grey breast and dark belly patch. (More like a chick Pheasant or adult Quail than a Grey Partridge.) After 2-3½ months assumes adult-like plumage.
VOICE: On rising, gives sharp, excited, short ‘prri prri prri …’ or ‘rick-rickrick…’. Song (by both sexes) a hoarse and abruptly clipped ‘kierr-ik’, repeated a few times at moderate intervals, often heard at night.