Sunday, 25 December 2011

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Happy Christmas! I hope everyone is having a wonderful day. I decided that for the next two weeks I'd look at a range of environmental and wildlife topics but through the theme of an old favourite, the Twelve Days of Christmas. So, as today is the first day of Christmas where better to start than with a Partridge in a Pear Tree. (I'm hoping that's not what my partner's got me - although I'll be impressed with the packaging if he has...)

This traditional English carol is actually thought to originate from France, partly because the red-legged (or French) partridge, which is much more likely to sit in trees than the native grey partridge, was not introduced to the UK until 1770 well after the song became popular. So if we are to take the song literally, it was probably started across the channel.

Partridges are part of the pheasant family. In the UK there are four birds from this group; the common pheasant (first introduced in the 10th century and then reintroduced in the 1830s), the quail (the UK's only migrant game bird travelling from Africa in the summer) and the two partridges both red-legged (introduced from Europe and long time resident) and grey (native and now sadly on the Red List of endangered species).

Almost all these birds are sociable, living in groups, although the male pheasant is an exception having very little to do with family life. Many more species live in Africa and Asia which is where the common pheasants ancestry originates from. 

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