Partridges are members of the pheasant family, Phasianidae. They are nonmigratory ground-nesters that eat mainly grain and seeds. Originally residents of grasslands, they became adapted to and spread with human agriculture; they are now most often found near cultivated fields.
European partridges are rotund, chicken-like birds (about 12 inches long) with short necks and tails. They have brown backs, gray underparts (with a dark chestnut belly patch), rusty faces, and dull bills and legs. Their clutches, consisting of 15 to 20 eggs, are among the largest of any bird. Widely introduced as gamebirds, partridges were extensively hunted in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The bird’s scientific name comes from Perdix of Greek mythology, the nephew of the inventor Daedalus. Daedalus was jealous of his young student—credited with having invented the saw, the chisel, the geometric compass, and the potter’s wheel—and seized an opportunity to shove him off of the Acropolis. Athena, sympathetic to the clever boy, came to his rescue and turned him into a partridge, a bird that avoids heights and prefers to nest on the ground. ...