On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …

… a partridge in a pear tree.

A Grey partridge or a Red-legged partridge?   

The Grey partridge used to be the only partridge here in Britain.  And so was simply called the Partridge.  But then came along the glamorous Red-legged partridge, introduced to Britain from France in the late 1700s, so we had to add the ‘grey’ bit on to the front of partridge to not get confused.  It’s not all grey though.  It has a pretty orange face, and some fancy stripy markings on its back and wings.
But back to the pear tree…  One may presume that, as the Red-legged partridge is a fairly new inhabitant to England, perhaps it was a Grey partridge being sung about.  But I’ve been doing some investigating, and guess what?  The ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ song, seems to have first appeared in England in … guess when?  Yep, the late 1700s.
Also, Grey partridges NEVER perch in trees.  Alas, Red partridges can occasionally be seen perching in trees.
So I think I’ll settle for the belief that early singers of our beloved song, believed they were singing about our truly native Grey partridge.  That will do for me.


A Grey partridge can produce one of the largest clutches of eggs of any current living bird species, up to 19 eggs.  Poor hen!  So how on earth did they manage to become so few?  Well, before 1940 approximately two million of these gamebirds were shot each year.  So it seems that there were loads of them before.  Post-war changes in our farming systems are to blame.  As usual.  Nowhere to nest, as we removed all the hedges.  Nothing to eat, as we killed everything with herbicides and pesticides.  What is a partridge to do.  If there was no food or housing available, would you keep having babies?   

There are many people trying to help the Grey partridge, including farmers and land managers, who are incentivised financially to manage their land in partridge friendly ways.  Organisations, such as the RSPB and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, work with these land managers, advising and helping them.  Marvellous folk.


About Olivia N Masi

From art college drop-out, to office space-planner, to back-packer, to air stewardess, to brolly babe, to model agent, to wildlife conservationist. How? I've always believed in jumping at every opportunity that comes my way. This has taken me along some bizarre career paths. None of which I regret. I have been to amazing places and met fascinating people. And having worked in the motor sport industry I've sadly experienced too many beloved friends take one adrenalin step too many. I think of them always. I've hung out with pop-stars, sports personalities, and millionaires. I reached a point when nothing but VIP would do. And then something happened. My pops passed away and I felt the need to reconnect with my Italian side. Whilst in Italy, I learnt to be resourceful, to recycle everything, to listen to the valley, to grow my own veg, to catch and tame feral cats, and to follow my heart. My heart led me to a desire to save this beautiful Earth, and all the wonderful life upon it. And so I read, and then I studied with the Open University. I suddenly found myself accepted on a BSc in Wildlife Conservation, having left school with pitiful qualifications. So here I am. A qualified Wildlife Conservationist. A scientist I suppose. I love nothing more than to listen to birdsong, and watch, learn and photograph wildlife. So here is to me getting the perfect job where I can contribute to saving one of Earth's beautiful species. Do I miss the glamour of the old life? The VIP lifestyle? The petrol-head adrenalin? The buzz of being a successful business owner? Only occasionally. Though it seems more like the distant dreams of a previous life.
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