Please note: This discussion topic is one of a set about species that are endemic or nearly endemic to the European Union (EU), and whose status in the EU therefore effectively determines their global status. To ensure consistency between the 2020 global and EU Red List assessments of these species, this set of topics is being fast-tracked through BirdLife’s Globally Threatened Bird Forums to inform decisions on the EU (and global) status of relevant species, which must be finalised and communicated to the European Commission by mid-April 2020. Topics on other species will be posted on the Forums shortly, for discussion later in the spring, as per usual. The results of the 2020 global Red List update for birds will be published by IUCN and BirdLife in early December.
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa is endemic to SW Europe and to the European Union (EU). Spain holds around 83% of the global population, Portugal around 12% and France around 4%, with small populations in NW Italy and Andorra (BirdLife International 2015). Introduced non-native populations elsewhere (e.g. UK and Macaronesian islands) do not count towards this assessment.
The species is currently listed as Least Concern, as when last assessed it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List Criteria. Globally, it has a very large range (>1.7 million km2) and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criteria (B and D2). Its population size is also extremely large (10–14 million mature individuals; BirdLife International 2015), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criteria (C and D1). Therefore, the only potentially relevant criterion is A, which relates to reductions in population size. The species’s population has been declining steadily across its range since at least the 1970s, and it has long been considered a species of conservation concern in Europe (Tucker & Heath 1994; BirdLife International 2004, 2015). However, its overall rate of decline was not thought to be sufficiently rapid to approach the threshold for listing as Vulnerable under Criterion A (>30% decline over 10 years or three generations, whichever is longer).
In late 2019, all 28 EU Member States were obliged to complete their second 6-yearly report to the European Commission (EC) under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive, including their latest information on the sizes and trends of the populations and ranges of all naturally occurring wild bird species. Under an EC contract to evaluate the EU population status of each species, BirdLife has now analysed these new data, which indicate that this species’s population has declined significantly in recent years, and that this decline is ongoing. Specifically, the latest trend data suggest that the species’s population has declined overall by 40-45% over the last 10 years (the relevant time period over which to evaluate this species’s trend, whose generation length is estimated to be 2.1 years; Bird et al. 2020). This rate of decline corresponds extremely well with that reported by PECBMS (the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme), which incorporates data from Spain, Portugal and France, and shows a steep decline since 2008.
Threats driving this decline are considered to include agricultural intensification and expansion, unsustainable hunting, abandonment of traditional game management techniques, urbanisation, genetic introgression as a result of restocking with other Alectoris species or hybrids, and disease transmission (Tucker & Heath 1994; BirdLife International 2015; Buenestado Malfeito 2018).
Overall, this species’s global population has declined by more than 40% over the last 10 years, and is continuing to decline, thereby qualifying it for reclassification from Least Concern to Vulnerable under Criterion A2ade+3bde+4abde (past, future and present declines).
Relevant comments and information on this fast-track topic are welcome by 8 April 2020, please.
Please note that this forum topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, but rather a discussion of the species’s Red List status. Therefore, please ensure your comments are relevant to the species’s Red List status and the information requested. By submitting a comment, you confirm that you agree to the BirdLife Forums’ Comment Policy.
Bird, J.P., Martin, R., Akçakaya, H.R., Gilroy, J., Burfield, I.J., Garnett, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Şekercioğlu, Ç.H. & Butchart, S.H. (2020). Generation lengths of the world’s birds and their implications for extinction risk. Conservation Biology. https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13486
BirdLife International (2004) Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No. 12).
BirdLife International (2015) European Red List of Birds: Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa. http://datazone.birdlife.org/userfiles/file/Species/erlob/summarypdfs/22678711_alectoris_rufa.pdf
Buenestado Malfeito, F. J. (2018). Ecología y dinámica poblacional de la perdiz roja (Alectoris rufa) en España. https://helvia.uco.es/handle/10396/16277
Tucker, G.M. & Heath, M.F. (1994) Birds in Europe: their conservation status. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No. 3).