Family Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse (Phasianidae)

Least Concern

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)


French: Perdrix rouge German: Rothuhn Spanish: Perdiz roja

Tetrao rufus


, 1758,

southern Europe = north Italy


Possibly closest to A. graeca. Previously thought to be close to A. chukar, A. philbyi and A. barbara; now considered to be more distant from those and from A. magna. Hybridizes with A. graeca in S French Alps. Recent study suggested that current populations resulted from post-glacial expansion and subsequent differentiation, with five diagnosable genetic clusters: south-western Iberia; central-eastern Iberia; north-western Iberia; Balearic; and French and Italian#R. However, an analysis of the control region of mitochondrial DNA (in 346 individuals sampled throughout the species distribution range) has shown that there is no distinct intraspecific phylogeographical structure, against the expected distribution of subspecies based on morphological characters; only the NW Iberian populations (race hispanica) show a weak population structure#R. Geographical plumage variation slight and clinal; Corsican population has been separated as race corsa, but usually included in nominate; race australis described from Gran Canaria (Canary Is), where species is introduced. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. r. rufa (Linnaeus, 1758) – France, NW Italy (including Elba) and Corsica.
  • A. r. hispanica (Seoane, 1894) – N & W Iberian Peninsula.
  • A. r. intercedens (A. E. Brehm, 1857) – E & S Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Is.
  • Introduced in several parts of Europe (e.g. rufa in Britain), and several Atlantic islands (hispanica in Madeira, intercedens and perhaps hispanica in Azores, intercedens in Canary Is); unsuccessfully in USA and New Zealand.

    Descriptive notes

    34–38 cm; male 480–547 g, female 391–540 g; wingspan 47–50 cm. Best distinguished from other Alectoris by black mottling on breast and sides... read more


    Generally rather similar to A. chukar and is also most vocal in early mornings.... read more


    Apparently less specialized than other Alectoris, ranging from Mediterranean to humid... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet very similar to those of A. chukar and Perdix perdix, though takes some larger items than latter. Seeds, leaves and... read more


    Lays late Apr to early May in Portugal, but starts as early as late Jan in Spain; late Apr to May in England; May to mid Jun in France.... read more


    Mostly sedentary, but some descent to lower ground noted in winter months.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Population estimated at between 2,000,0000 and 4,500,000 pairs. Believed to have declined considerably in its native range, with... read more

    Recommended citation

    McGowan, P.J.K., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2019). Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa). 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).