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A photo of a Barbary Partridge (Alectoris barbara)
Barbary Partridge

Barbary Partridge

Alectoris barbara

The Barbary partridge, Alectoris barbara, is a plump gamebird belonging to the pheasant family, Phasianidae. Exhibiting a grey-brown back, grey breast, and a buff belly, this bird carries itself with a certain rotund elegance. Its face is adorned with light grey feathers, set off by a striking reddish-brown gorget. Notably, the flanks are a rufous-streaked white, and the legs are a vivid red, adding a dash of color to its otherwise muted palette.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Barbary partridge, look for its distinctive head pattern, which sets it apart from its cousin, the red-legged partridge. The broad reddish-brown gorget is a key feature, as are the rufous-streaked white flanks. The red legs are also a giveaway. In flight, observe its rounded wings, though it will often choose to run rather than take to the air.

Habitat

The Barbary partridge favors dry, open, and often hilly terrains. It thrives in environments that offer a blend of sparse vegetation and open ground, which provide both cover and foraging opportunities.

Distribution

Native to North Africa, the Barbary partridge also graces the landscapes of Gibraltar and the Canary Islands, specifically the subspecies Alectoris barbara ssp. koenigi. While it has been introduced to continental Portugal and Madeira, recent sightings on the latter are lacking. The species has also established a presence in Sardinia.

Behaviour

This bird is a ground-dweller, showing a preference for running to escape danger. It will, however, take short flights if necessary. The Barbary partridge is a resident breeder, meaning it does not migrate and stays within its range year-round.

Song & calls

The vocal repertoire of the Barbary partridge includes a distinctive and noisy "tre-tre-tre-tre-tre-cheeche-tre-tre-tre," a call that resonates through its arid habitats at dawn and dusk.

Breeding

The Barbary partridge is known to nest on the ground in a simple scrape, where it lays a clutch of 10-16 eggs. However, in Tunisia, there have been intriguing instances of this bird nesting arboreally in the abandoned nests of the African Magpie, likely as a strategy to evade predators.

Diet and Feeding

A diet rich in a variety of seeds, supplemented with some insects, sustains the Barbary partridge. It typically begins its foraging and drinking activities at the break of dawn.

Conservation status

The Barbary partridge is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that, for now, it faces no imminent threat of extinction.

Similar Species

The red-legged partridge is the species most similar to the Barbary partridge, but can be distinguished by differences in head and neck patterns.

In Gibraltar, the Barbary partridge is not merely a bird to be spotted by the keen birdwatcher; it is a national symbol, proudly depicted on the local 1 pence coin.

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Barbary Partridge Fun Facts

Did you know?
The Barbary Partridge is the national bird of Gibraltar

Barbary Partridges on Birda

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