Native partridges get to spread their wings again
THE native grey partridge is spreading its wings. It was on the cusp of extinction less than a decade ago but yesterday the species was being released back into the wild at a farm in north Co Dublin.
Experts hope that a thriving population will return to the skies over the coming years and show how farmers and conservation groups can work side by side to bring more native species back into the wild.
The grey partridge (Perdix perdix) is found on farmland across Europe and as far east as Russia, but numbers have plummeted since the 1950s as their habitats were destroyed by intensive farming methods.
In 2002, there was a population of just 22 across the entire country -- and these were concentrated at a single location at Boora Bog in Co Offaly.
But efforts by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to protect the species have paid off and the number has since increased to 932 birds.
Fingal County Council plans to release 70 birds into the wild near three farms at Oldtown in north Dublin. At least 10km of habitat will be created, planted with kale, oats and linseed.
These will provide suitable habitat for breeding, feeding and shelter for the adult and young partridges.
"There's evidence that partridges are here since Newgrange but they went because of intensive farming, which was catastrophic," said Kieran Buckley from the Irish Grey Partridge Conservation Trust.
Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan yesterday released the first batch on a farm near Oldtown.
The release programme is part of an ambitious five-year project to re-establish a viable population of the bird in north Dublin.
Fingal County Council biodiversity officer Hans Visser said the county had a lot of suitable farmland to allow grey partridge thrive in the wild.