30 Nov 2014

30 Nov 14 - Photospot7: Western Palearctic Partridges

I have been lucky to see all the Western Palearctic Partridges this year, with the exception of See-see Partridge. Maybe I be able to rectify that on a return trip to Turkey at some point in the future. I saw it there on my trip in 1986, but I won't have any photos as my camera could only take insect & general photographs in those days.

So here is the perfect excuse for another Photospot to look at the Western Palearctic Partridges in a bit more detail. Note, this post following the boundaries as defined in the Birds of the Western Palearctic, rather than the latest idea that has come from an author who has redefined the boundary to include the whole of the Arabian Peninsula to help him sell a book in the future. The problem I have with that approach is parts of the Southern Arabian Peninsula contain a good selection of species which are primarily of African origin, with a few Indian subcontinent species also occurring in the Southern Arabian Peninsula. Clearly, there are Palearctic species that also occur. I think the BWP authors got the boundaries right in the Arabian Peninsula & think that it is better to treat the Southern Arabian Peninsula as a separate area in its own right. As a consequence, this post will not include Philby's Rock Partridge and Arabian Red-legged Partridge as neither occur in the BWP boundaries that I have always followed. Hopefully, I will get to parts of their range in the future, in which I may get the chance to write a Photospot on the Arabian Peninsula Partridges.

There are 4 Alectoris Partridges in the Western P & this group is typical of the observations of Alfred Russel Wallace: who is the relatively unknown scientist who was working in parallel on theories of evolution. It was his observations & letters that seemed to finally spur Charles Darwin on to publish his Origin of Species & ended up with major credit for the theories of evolution. During his time travelling in Central & Eastern Indonesia, Wallace found that as he moved around the Indonesian Archipelago, that time & time again he was seeing species which looked similar to, but were not the same as the species from another area he had already visited. He deduced there must have been an original species that had evolved in different areas of its range, until the populations in the different parts of the original species range could be considered as different species. The 4 Alectoris Partridges (Rock Partridge, Chukar, Barbary Partridge, Red-legged Partridge) are good examples of this as they are all variations on a theme. Philby's Rock Partridge, Arabian Red-legged Partridge & Przevalski's Partridge (found in the Qinghai & Gansu provinces of China) are the remaining 3 Alectoris Partridges in the world.
Rock Partridge: Male. Velji Do, Cavtat, Croatia (4 May 14). Note, the thin white supercilium and black line along the full depth of the upper mandible
Rock Partridge: Male. Velji Do, Cavtat, Croatia (4 May 14). Note, the lack of any spotting below the clean cut black gorget. This species occurs in the Alps (France, Switzerland & Austria), the Italian Appennines, parts of the former Yugoslavia to Greece & Bulgaria. Another race with a broken gorget occurs on Sicily & is being proposed as a potential candidate for splitting from Rock Partridge
Chukar: Beit Yatir, Israel (8 April 14). Note, there is no obvious white supercilium and the black goes across the forehead, but does not extend down the side of the upper mandible. This species occurs from SE Bulgaria to Turkey, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Iran. It also occurs on Crete, Rhodes & Cyprus. There are other subspecies found outside of the Western P in Tajikstan, Afghanistan to Nepal, Mongolia, Tibet & China
Barbary Partridge: Oued Massa, Morocco (14 Feb 14). Clearly, the most diverse looking of the Alectoris group. Note, the light grey throat (white in the other 3) and black gorget with white spots. This species occurs in North Africa from Morocco to Libya & NW Egypt. It has been introduced to the Canaries, Southern Spain & Sardinia
Red-legged Partridge: Win Green, Wiltshire (28 June 14). Note, the broad white supercilium. The natural range of Red-legged Partridge is the Spanish Peninsula, France, NW Italy & Corsica. It was introduced into the UK in the 17th Century. It has even managed a cameo appearance in Once Upon a Time in the West (one of my all time favourite films & filmed in East Spain!!!)
Red-legged Partridge: Win Green, Wiltshire (28 June 14). Note, the diffuse gorget which merges into the extensive breast streaking. The black lores meets the side of the bill, (rather than the black continuing onto the base of the forehead as in Rock Partridge & Chukar)
Now for the other Western Palearctic Partridges. There are 2 Ammoperdix Partridges, both of which occur in the Western Palearctic.
Sand Partridge: Wadi Salvadora, Israel (7 April 14). Male. Males have this broad white facial pattern and broad flank stripes. Females do not have the white facial pattern or flank stripes. They occurs from Israel, Jordon to Saudi Arabia & Northern Egypt
Sand Partridge: Amran Pillars, Israel (10 April 14). Male. The superficially similar looking See-see Partridge is another semi desert species which occurs in Turkey, Syria, Iraq & Iran to SW Russia & Pakistan. Male See-see Partridges have a stronger white facial pattern with the white extending in front of the eye & a black line above the white band. Females look fairly similar to the female Sand Partridges, but can be separated on range
The final Western Palearctic Partridge is Grey Partridge. This is the only Perdix Partridge in the Western P. The remaining 2 Perdix species are found further East: Daurian Partridge (Mongolia, Manchuria & China) and Tibetan Partridge (Nepal to Tibet).
Grey Partridge: Sixpenny Handley, Dorset (13 June 14). Male on the right. This species has a fairly large Western P range occurring in most of Europe, except Northern & Central Scandanavia & most of the Iberian Peninsula. Another subspecies occurs in Transcaucasia
I've always regarded the Francolin group as closely related to the Partridges, but not Partridges. But as I've managed to photograph one of the 2 native Francolin species that occurs in the Western Palearctic, I've decided to included them in this post. They are Black Francolin & Double-spurred Francolin. I have seen Double-spurred Francolin in the mountains of Western Morocco in 1990, but unfortunately I have no photos. There is another subspecies which occurs in Senegal & Gambia to Central African Republic.
Black Francolin: Kfar Ruppin, Israel (13 April 14) Male. Female are essentially a scaly brown colouration. They occurs from Turkey, Israel, Iraq & Iran with other races occurring as far as the Northern parts of the Indian Subcontinent