Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The breeding population, which is confined to Europe, is estimated at 5,060,000-7,080,000 pairs, which equates to 10,100,000-14,200,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).
The population size is estimated to be decreasing by less than 25% in 11.7 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015).
The species is found in open habitats ranging from Mediterranean to humid temperate zones but not in boreal, oceanic or arid zones (Tucker and Heath 1994, McGowan et al. 2013). It prefers lowland areas and avoids forest and wet areas if possible. It uses habitats with a wide variety of soils and land uses including dry hilly land with scattered bushes up to about 1,300 m (occasionally up to 2,000 m) in montane foothills, inhospitable dry terrain on lower mountain slopes and marginal cultivation, cropland, orchards or woodland (McGowan et al. 2013). Over most of its range it is associated with arable farming, using low-intensity cropping with a mixture of cultivated, fallow and uncultivated ground (Tucker and Heath 1994). Laying dates vary between countries; April to early May in Portugal, late April to May in England and May to mid-June in France. The nest is a scrape in the ground lined with a few pieces of vegetation. Clutch sizes average 11.2–12.7 eggs. It feeds on seeds, leaves and roots with grasses and legumes particularly important in winter. It will also eat insects. The species is mostly sedentary but may descend to lower ground during the winter (McGowan et al. 2013).
The disappearance of uncultivated land due to changes in agricultural practice has resulted in the loss of nesting cover and chick food. In pastoral areas, pastures have been agriculturally improved and areas of low, herb-rich scrub converted to grassland and further habitat loss has occurred through the loss of arable farming from open hill areas, if livestock are removed (leading to encroachment of tall scrub and forest) (Tucker and Heath 1994). Urbanization and agricultural expansion have also caused habitat fragmentation. In the Iberian Peninsula, hunting has led to steep declines; in Portugal over 60% of estimated potential population may be shot each year (McGowan and Kirwan 2013). Also illegal importations of A. graeca and A. chukar may also be causing problems through hybridization and competition (Tucker and Heath 1994, McGowan and Kirwan 2013).
Conservation Actions Underway
EU Birds Directive Annex II and III. In 1993, the release of any Alectoris species other than A. rufa was discontinued in the U.K. (Tucker and Heath 1994).
Conservation Actions Proposed
The promotion of low-level agriculture in the lowlands and the maintenance of of traditional farming practices in marginal hill areas should be put in place. Releases of other Alectoris species should be stopped in the rest of Europe. Sustainable hunting practices should be developed and adopted and promoted by hunting organisations and their members (Tucker and Heath 1994).
Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Ashpole, J
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Alectoris rufa. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/02/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/02/2019.