Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Agricultural practices or game management: which is the key to improve red-legged partridge nesting success in agricultural landscapes?


European agricultural landscapes hold important endangered and game species, which may add socioeconomical and ecological value to the ecosystem, and thus must be considered priority species in any management programme integrating agriculture, hunting and conservation. Patterns of red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) nesting habitat selection and nesting success provide information for the implementation of these kinds of programmes in agrarian pseudosteppes. Nests occur mainly in cereal grain fields, although this habitat type was overall negatively selected and had the lowest nesting success. Only lindes (herbaceous strips among fields) were positively selected, and were also the habitat type with the highest nesting success. Nests within cereal grain fields were positively selected close to the field margins (mostly < 5 m). Agricultural practices, particularly harvesting, were the main cause of nest failure. Changes in agricultural practices would be a more effective means of increasing nesting success than predator control. Partridge breeding success may be improved by better management of agricultural areas, increasing the availability of lindes and slightly delaying cereal harvesting. These data may have implications for other endangered steppe-birds with similar nesting habitat, and may provide the basis for effective and successful collaborative programmes between hunters and conservationists.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence: Dr Fabián Casas Fax: +34 926 295451 e-mail:
Hide All
Aebischer N.J. & Potts G.R. (1994) Red–legged partridge. In: Birds in Europe. Their Conservation Status, ed. Tucker G.M. & Heath M.F., pp. 214215. Birdlife Conservation Series n°3. Cambridge, UK: Birdlife International.
Arroyo B. & Beja P. (2002) Impact of hunting management practices on biodiversity. Report WP2 to REGHAB project [www document]. European Commission, Brussels. URL
Arroyo B., Garcia J.T. & Bretagnolle V. (2002) Conservation of the Montagu's harrier (Circus pygargus) in agricultural areas. Animal Conservation 5: 283290.
Baines D., Moss R. & Dugan D. (2004) Capercaillie breeding success in relation to forest habitat and predator abundance. Journal of Applied Ecology 41:5971.
Battin J. (2004) When good animals love bad habitats: ecological traps and the conservation of animal populations. Conservation Biology 18: 14821491.
Bernabeu R.L. (2000) Evaluación económica de la caza en Castilla-La Mancha. Ph.D. thesis, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Spain.
Blanco-Aguiar J.A. (2007) Variación espacial en la biología de la perdiz roja (Alectoris rufa): una aproximación multidisciplinar. Ph.D. thesis, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.
Blanco-Aguiar J.A., Virgós E. & Villafuerte R. (2003) Perdiz Roja (Alectoris rufa). In: Atlas de las aves reproductoras de España, ed. Martí R. & Del Moral J.C., pp. 212213. Madrid, Spain: Dirección General de Conservación de la Naturaleza y Sociedad Española de Ornitología.
Blanco-Aguiar J.A., Virgós E. & Villafuerte R. (2004) Perdiz Roja (Alectoris rufa). In: Libro Rojo de las Aves de España, ed. Madroño A., González C. & Atienza J.C., pp. 182185. Madrid, Spain: Dirección General para la Biodiversidad-SEO/BirdLife.
Blanco-Aguiar J.A., González-Jara P., Ferrero M.E., Sánchez-Barbudo I., Virgós E., Villafuerte R. & Dávila J.A. (2008) Assessment of game restocking contributions to anthropogenic hybridization: the case of the Iberian red-legged partridge. Animal Conservation 11: 535545.
BOE. (2004) Real Decree 2352/2004, On the implementation of conditionality in relation to direct payments under the Common Agricultural Policy. Boletín Oficial del Estado 309: 4169041698 [in Spanish].
Bota G., Morales M.B., Mañosa S. & Camprodon J. (2005) Ecology and Conservation of Steppe-land Birds. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions & Centre Tecnològic Forestal de Catalunya.
Bro E., Reitz F. & Clobert J. (2000 a) Nest-site selection of grey partridge (Perdix perdix) on agricultural lands in North-Central France. Game and Wildlife Science 17: 116.
Bro E., Reitz F., Clobert J. & Mayot P. (2000 b) Nesting success of grey partridges (Perdix perdix) on agricultural lands in North-Central France: relation to nesting cover and predator abundance. Game and Wildlife Science 17: 199218.
Burnham K.P. & Anderson R.R. (1998) Model Selection and Inference: A Practical Information-Theoretic Approach. New York, NY, USA: Springer.
Byers C.R., Steinhorst R.K. & Krausman P.R. (1984) Clarification of a technique for analysis of utilization-availability data. Journal of Wildlife Management 48: 10501053.
Casas F., Mougeot F. & Viñuela J. (2009) Double nesting behaviour and differences between sexes in breeding success in wild red-legged partridges Alectoris rufa. Ibis 151: 743751.
Castaño J.P. (1995) Efecto de la actividad de siega y causas de fracaso reproductivo en una población de aguilucho cenizo (Circus pygargus) en el SE de Ciudad Real. Ardeola 42: 167172.
Chamberlain D.E., Fuller R.J., Bunce R.G.H., Duckworth J.C. & Shrubb M. (2000) Changes in the abundance of farmland birds in relation to the timing of agricultural intensification in England and Wales. Journal of Applied Ecology 37: 771788.
Cramp S. & Simmons K.E.L. (1980) The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume II. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Del Hoyo J., Elliott A. & Sargatal J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World, Volume II. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.
Donald P.F., Green R.E. & Heath M.F. (2001) Agricultural intensification and the collapse of Europe's farmland bird populations. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 268: 2529.
Duarte J. & Vargas J.M. (2002) Los sumideros de perdiz roja a lo largo del ciclo anual. In: Aportaciones a la gestión sostenible de la caza, ed. Lucio A. & de Buruaga M. Sáenz, pp. 101126. Madrid, Spain: FEDENCE-EEC.
Ferrero J.J. (1995) La población ibérica de Aguilucho Cenizo Circus pygargus. Alytes 7: 539560.
Fortuna M.A. (2002) Selección de hábitat de la perdiz roja Alectoris rufa en período reproductor en relación con las características del paisaje de un agrosistema de La Mancha (España). Ardeola 49: 5966.
Fuller R.J. (2000) Relationship between recent changes in lowland British agriculture and farmland bird populations: an overview. In: Ecology and Conservation of Lowland Farmland Birds, ed. Aebischer N.J., Evans A.D., Grice P.V. & Vickery J.A., pp. 516. Tring, UK: British Ornithologists’ Union.
Green R.E. (1984) Double nesting of the red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa. Ibis 126: 332346.
Haensly T.F., Crawford J.A. & Meyers S.M. (1987) Relationships of habitat structure to nest success of ring-necked pheasants. Journal of Wildlife Management 51: 421428.
Herranz J. (2000) Efectos de de la de predación y del control de depredadores sobre la caza menor en Castilla-La Mancha. Ph.D. thesis, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain.
Lucio A.J. (1998) Recuperación y gestión de la perdiz roja en España. In: La Perdiz Roja, ed. FEDENCA, pp. 6392. Madrid, Spain: FEDENCA.
Lucio A.J. & Purroy F.J. (1992) Red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa) habitat selection in Northwest Spain. Gibier Faune Sauvage 9: 417430.
Manly B.F.J., McDonald L.L., Thomas D.L., McDonald T.L. & Erickson W.P. (2002) Resource Selection by Animals, Second edition. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Martínez J., Viñuela J. & Villafuerte R. (2002) Socioeconomic and cultural aspects of gamebird hunting. Report. REGHAB project, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium.
Morgado R. & Moreira F. (2000) Seasonal population dynamics, nest site selection, sex-ratio and clutch size of the great bustard Otis tarda in two adjacent lekking areas. Ardeola 47: 237246.
Nadal J. (1992) Problemática de las poblaciones de perdiz roja, bases ecoetológicas para tener éxito con las repoblaciones. In: La Perdiz Roja. Gestión del Hábitat, ed. Fundación La Caixa, pp. 87100. Barcelona, Spain: Fundación La Caixa.
Nadal J. (1998) La bioecología de la perdiz roja. In: La Perdiz Roja. I Curso, ed. de Buruaga M. Sáenz, pp. 3345. Madrid, Spain: Grupo Editorial V-FEDENCA.
Nadal J. & Comalrena P. (1995) Predación, caza y vida silvestre. Barcelona, Spain: Aedos-Fundación ‘La Caixa’.
Pain D.J. & Pienkowski M.W. (1997) Farming and Birds in Europe. The Common Agricultural Policy and its Implications for Bird Conservation. London, UK: Academic Press.
Peiró V. (1992) Ecología de las poblaciones de perdiz roja (Alectoris rufa) en la provincia de Alicante y su aplicación a la gestión cinegética. Ph.D. thesis, Universidad de Alicante, Spain.
Potts G.R. (1980) The effects of modern agriculture, nest predation and game management on the population ecology of partridges (Perdix perdix and Alectoris rufa). Ecological Research 2: 279.
Rands M.R.W. (1986) Effect of hedgerow characteristics on partridge breeding densities. Journal of Applied Ecology 23: 479–87.
Rands M.R.W. (1987 a) Hedgerow management for the conservation of partridges Perdix perdix and Alectoris rufa. Biological Conservation 40: 127139.
Rands M.R.W. (1987 b) Recruitment of grey and red-legged partridges (Perdix perdix and Alectoris rufa) in relation to population density and habitat. Journal of Zoology 212: 407418.
Rands M.R.W. (1988) The effect of nest site selection on nest predation in grey partridge Perdix perdix and red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa. Ornis Scandinavica 19: 3540.
Reitz F., Le Goff E. & Fuzeau M. (2002) Landscape selection by grey partridge (Perdix perdix) for nesting in the fields of French cereal agrosystems. Game and Wildlife Science 19: 209–20.
Ricci J.C., Mathon J.F., Garcia A., Berger F. & Esteve J.P. (1990) Effect of habitat structure and nest site selection on nest predation in red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa L.) in French Mediterranean farmlands. Gibier Faune Sauvage 7: 231253.
Rueda M.J., Baragaño J.R. & Notario A. (1993) Nidification de la perdrix rouge (Alectoris rufa) dans la région de La Mancha (Espagne). Bulletin Mensual Office Nacional de la Chasse 184: 29.
Sáenz de Buruaga M., Lucio A. & Purroy F.J. (2001) Reconocimiento de sexo y edad en especies cinegéticas. León, Spain: EDILESA.
Taylor J.S., Church K.E. & Rusch D.H. (1999) Microhabitat selection by nesting and brood-rearing northern bobwhite in Kansas. Journal of Wildlife Management 63: 686694.
Tella J.L., Forero M.G., Hiraldo F. & Donazár J.A. (1998) Conflicts between lesser kestrel conservation and European agricultural policy as identified by habitat use analysis. Conservation Biology 12: 593604.
Thomas C.F.G. & Marshall E.J.P. (1999) Arthropod abundance and diversity in differently vegetated margins of arable fields. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 72: 131144.
Tirpak J.M., Giuliano W.M., Miller C.A., Allen T.J., Bittner S., Edwards J.W., Fridhof S., Igo W.K., Stauffer DF & Norman G.W. (2006) Ruffed grouse nest success habitat selection in the Central and Southern Appalachians. Journal of Wildlife Management 70: 138144.
Tucker G. (1991) The status of lowland dry grassland birds in Europe. In: The Conservation of Lowland Dry Grassland Birds in Europe, ed. Goriup P.D.L., Batten A. & Norton J.A., pp. 3748. Peterborough, UK: Joint Nature Conservation Committee.
Tucker G.M & Heath M.F. (1994) Birds in Europe: Their Conservation Status. Cambridge, UK: Birdlife International.
Vargas J.M. & Cardo M. (1996) El declive de la perdiz roja en el olivar. Trofeo 317: 2327.
Vargas J.M., Guerrero J.C., Farfán M.A., Barbosa A.M. & Real R. (2006) Land use and environmental factors affecting red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa) hunting yields in southern Spain. European Journal of Wildlife Research 52: 188195.
Vickery J., Carter N. & Fuller R.J. (2002) The potential value of managed cereal field margins as foraging habitats for farmland birds in the UK. Agriculture, Ecosystem and Environment 89: 4152.
Villanúa D., Pérez-Rodríguez L., Casas F., Alzaga V., Acevedo P., Viñuela J. & Gortázar C. (2008) Sanitary risks of red-legged partridge releases: introduction of parasites. European Journal of Wildlife Research 54: 199204.
Viñuela J. & Villafuerte R. (2003) Predators and rabbits in Spain: a key conflict for European raptor conservation. In: Birds of Prey in a Changing Environment, ed. Thompson D.B.M., Redpath S., Fielding A., Marquiss M. & Galbraith C.A., pp. 511526. London, UK: The Stationary Office.
Yanes M. & Suárez F. (1995) Nest predation patterns in ground-nesting passerines on the Iberian Peninsula. Ecography 18: 423428.
Yanes M., Herranz J., de la Puente J. & Suárez F. (1998) La perdiz roja. Identidad de los depredadores e intensidad de la depredación. In: La Perdiz Roja. I Curso, ed. Sáenz de Buruaga M., pp. 135147. Madrid, Spain: Grupo Editorial V-FEDENCA.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Environmental Conservation
  • ISSN: 0376-8929
  • EISSN: 1469-4387
  • URL: /core/journals/environmental-conservation
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Casas Supplementary material

 Word (62 KB)
62 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 18 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 113 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.