Family Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse (Phasianidae)

Least Concern

Arabian Partridge (Alectoris melanocephala)


French: Perdrix à tête noire German: Schwarzkopf-Steinhuhn Spanish: Perdiz árabe

Perdix melanocephala


, 1835,

mountains near Jedda, Saudi Arabia


Distinctive member of genus, sometimes separated as a monotypic subgenus. Perhaps most closely related to A. barbara, with this lineage representing the oldest divergence within the genus#R. Races rather poorly differentiated; species sometimes treated as monotypic. Two subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. m. melanocephala (Rüppell, 1835) – S Arabia from Jedda (W Saudi Arabia) S to W & C Yemen, and W Oman (E to Dhofar); apparently isolated population in Jabal Akhdar region, near Muscat (NE Oman), speculated to have been introduced. Recently reported from near Madinah (N Hejaz, CW Saudi Arabia), a considerable range extension. Recent records from Jabal Hafit (Oman–United Arab Emirates border) perhaps involved escapes#R.
  • A. m. guichardi (R. Meinertzhagen, 1951) – E Hadramut, in E Yemen.
  • No acceptable record for Eritrea, where not claimed since 1890 and data may be based on released birds.

    Descriptive notes

    39–43 cm; male c. 724 g, female c. 522 g. Differs from other Alectoris including partially sympatric (but mainly elevationally parapatric) A. philbyi... read more


    Considered to be generally louder and deeper than other Alectoris: most commonly gives a... read more


    Stony and somewhat better-vegetated ground in hills, mountains and upland plains, from near sea-... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on vegetable matter, seeds and invertebrates. Crops contained the grass Schismus barbatus and the herb Gnaphalium... read more


    Lays late Mar–May in Arabia (pairs form from Feb), but chicks reported Apr–Nov (mostly Jun–Sept); formerly Jul–Aug... read more


    No information available, but presumably sedentary. Escapes potential predators by running uphill. read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Mace Lande: safe. Overall population speculated to number 400,000 pairs. Locally common in Saudi Arabia with highest densities in... read more

    Recommended citation

    McGowan, P.J.K. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Arabian Partridge (Alectoris melanocephala). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 6 December 2019).