Rock Partridge Alectoris graeca


Justification of Red List Category
This species has been assessed as Near Threatened because, despite a relatively large population and range, it is suspected that a moderately rapid population reduction is taking place, owing to habitat degradation and over-exploitation in some areas. It almost qualifies for a threatened listing under criteria A2bcd+3bcd+4bcd.

Population justification
The breeding population, which is confined to Europe, is estimated to number 39,800-77,100 pairs, which equates to 79,600-154,200 mature individuals (BirdLife International in prep.).

Trend justification
The species is thought to be declining moderately rapidly, particularly in the Balkans, based on a balanced assessment of the available evidence (Griffin 2011, A. Bernard-Laurent in litt. 2012, BirdLife International in prep.). The species is declining owing to habitat degradation, caused in many places by agricultural abandonment resulting in increased woody cover of previously discontinuous vegetation (Budinsky et al. 2011, Knaus et al. 2018, Rippa et al. 2011, R. Lentner in litt. 2020). The expansion of dense Brachypodium genuense dominated grassland in the Apennines is similarly reducing suitable habitat for the species (Brusaferro et al. 2019). It is also declining owing to over-hunting in some areas (del Hoyo et al. 1994) especially where enforcement is poor allowing permits to be sold on to foreign hunters (B. Rubinić in litt. 2020). This is reflected in its classification as Threatened or Near Threatened in a number of recently published national Red Data Books (covering c. 70% of the species’s global population) in which the species has been classified on the basis of population declines thought to approach or exceed 30% over the last three generations.

Hunting opportunity information (C. Thomaides in litt. 2020), based on abundance rather than number of licences issued, showed a reduction in Greece of greater than 20% between 2008/9 and 2018/9. The trend in hunting bag data (A. Gassios, C. Kalaitzis, D. Nikolau and C. Thomaides in litt. 2020) also shows a rapid decline, equivalent to 45-46% over ten years (99,900-115,800 individuals in 2012/13 and 68,800-80,800 in 2017/18), but there was a decrease in the number of licences issued over this period due to the economic downturn, such that the rate of decline is not believed to be this rapid. In the absence of published monitoring data, inferences from hunting opportunity bags also appear to be the most robust information on populations in the Italian Alps, as these are based on annual plans based on censuses in spring and at the end of summer (M. Sorrenti and V. Trocchi in litt. 2020). These demonstrate a sudden decrease between the period 2006-2008 (annual mean 1,117) and 2009-2014 (annual mean 573 (Artuso 2014, 2019), a ten-year decline approaching 50%.  

Overall, the decline over ten years (generation length for the species is 2.8 years [Bird et al. 2020]) is suspected to approach, but not currently exceed, 30%.

Distribution and population

This species is endemic to Europe, occurring only in the Alps, the Apennines, Sicily and the Balkans. It is suspected to be declining moderately rapidly, based on declines noted from transect surveys (Bernoni 2007), hunting bag declines in regions setting limits according to spring population density (Artuso 2017, 2019, F. Riga in litt. 2020) and declines in distribution extent via data from the second European Breeding Bird Atlas (EBBA2) (Keller et al. in press).

In the Balkans, it breeds in Albania (strong decline is suspected since c.1995: J. Selmani in litt. 2020), Bosnia and Herzegovina (7,000-10,000 pairs and thought to have declined strongly in the last few decades [Sucic 2008, BirdLife International in prep, ]), Bulgaria (800-1,500 pairs: declining numbers and distribution since the 1960s [Iankov 2007]), Croatia (6,000-10,000 pairs [BirdLife International in prep.] and considered to be declining with several local extinctions reported [Budinski et al. 2010]), Greece (4,260-22,975 pairs [Keller et al. 2020]) with reported on-going declines and local extirpations [Handrinos and Katsadorakis 2009] and an apparently rapid decline in reported hunting bags (data submitted under Article 12 of the Birds Directive), North Macedonia (2,000–5,000 pairs [Velevski et al. 2010], no current evidence for a decline), Montenegro (3,500-5,500 pairs [Rubinić et al. 2019], Serbia (declined by c. 20-30% in the 1990s to c. 1,000–1,500 pairs [Puzovic et al. 2009]). In Greece, there are significantly differing population estimates (4,260-22,975 [Keller et al. 2020], 7,000-13,000 pairs [Handrinos 2009] and 109,338 to 133,979 pairs [Bontzorlos et al. 2012]). The latter has been questioned over the lack of clarity over transect routes used, apparent oversampling of wildlife refuges (and discrepancies in sampling effort reported), the use of active flushing for Distance sampling and the manner of the extrapolation of densities calculated to suitable habitat across Greece (D. Portolou in litt. 2020). However, very large numbers of hunted birds have been reported on an annual basis, seemingly in excess of expected productivity from the lower population estimates (A. Gassios, C. Kalaitzis, D. Nikolau and C. Thomaides in litt. 2020).

Elsewhere in the species's range, declines have been reported in Austria (R. Lentner in litt. 2012) which holds 700-1,200 pairs (BirdLife International in prep.), Italy (Ientile and Massa 2008, Sorace et al. 2013, Brusaferro et al. 2019), with an estimated 8,000-12,000 pairs on the mainland (Brichetti and Fracasso 2018, BirdLife International in prep.), of which 1,939-2,436 pairs are in the Apennines (Sorace et al. 2013), and 1,500 pairs of the endemic subspecies A. g. whitakeri on Sicily (Palumbo and Lo Valvo 2002), and Switzerland (2,500-4,500 pairs, with an overall long-term decline and shorter-term periodic fluctuations [Knaus et al. 2018]). In France (895-1,611 pairs [BirdLife International in prep.]) monitoring between 1981 to 2011 has shown the population to be fluctuating (A. Bernard-Laurent in litt. 2012). A small population persists in Slovenia (280-440 pairs) where current trend is unknown. The global population is estimated at c.79,600–154,200 mature individuals (BirdLife International in prep.).


The species utilises a variety of habitats and different altitudes, up to 3,000 m in the Alps and almost down to sea level in Sicily and Greece. Generally they prefer open, mountain habitats with grassy patches, low scrub or scattered conifers (Griffin 2011).


Studies in different parts of the species’s range (summarised in Griffin 2011) indicate that it is affected by a wide variety of threats, including habitat loss and degradation (Bernard-Laurent and de Franceschi 1994), abandonment of traditional agro-pastoral activities (Budinski et al. 2010, Rippa et al. 2011, Knaus et al. 2018, R. Lentner in litt. 2020), reduced connectivity between metapopulations (Cattadori et al. 2003), disturbance, poaching (B. Rubinić in litt. 2020), unsustainable hunting, extreme climatic events (Bernard-Laurent and Leonard 2000), hybridisation with released captive-bred Chukar A. chukar and Red-legged Partridge A. rufa (Barilani et al. 2007, Randi 2008), and the transfer of pathogens and parasites from these species (Manios et al. 2002, Rosà et al. 2011). Additional threats include the increase of tourism in mountain areas, predominantly in the French and Austrian Alps (A. Bernard-Laurent in litt. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation measures underway
EU Birds Directive Annex I. The species is classified as nationally Threatened or Near Threatened in Red Data Books in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy and Switzerland.

Conservation measures proposed
Conduct surveys to determine population size and trends across the species's range. Improve knowledge on the effects of hunting on the species. Implement measures to reduce abandonment of traditional agro-pastoral activities. Safeguard the species's habitat. Improve legislation and enforcement to reduce unsustainable hunting and poaching. Investigate hybridisation with captive-bred A. chukar and A. rufa and pathogen and parasite transfer from these species.


Large partridge with grey-brown back, grey-blue breast, pale reddish underparts with black bars across the sides and pure white bib with a well defined black collar extending across the eye to the base of the upper mandible. Both sexes have identical plumage. Similar spp. Chukar Alectoris chukar has a less defined ear-covert stripe. In areas where both Chukar and Rock Partridge are present the best method for field identification is the difference in song to distinguish individuals. 


Text account compilers
Martin, R.

Bernard-Laurent, A., Dedej, Z., Dowell, S., Gassios, A., Kalaitzis, C., Keller, V., Knaus, P., Lentner, R., Lo Valvo, M., Nikolaou, D., Nipkow, M., Portolou, D., Postoli, A., Riga, F., Rubinić, B., Selmani, J., Sorace, A., Sorrenti, M., Thomaides, C., Trocchi, V., Vlachos, C., Zbinden, N., Derhé, M., Ashpole, J, Burfield, I., Grice, H. & Staneva, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Alectoris graeca. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/10/2021.