White partridge (Lagopus lagopus (Linnaeus, 1758)) – a bird of the subfamily of grouse, a detachment of otters. Inhabitant of the tundra, taiga and forests of the Northern Hemisphere.
Body length 35-38 cm; weighs 400-700 g.
Among the remaining choruses, the white partridge is distinguished by pronounced seasonal dimorphism: its color varies according to the season. Winter plumage is white, with the exception of black outer tail feathers, with thick feathered legs.
In spring, during mating, the males and males acquire a brick-brown color, which contrasts sharply with the white trunk.
In summer and autumn, the male and female are equally reddish-brown or mottled (gray with various transverse waves, dark spots and stripes). Flight feathers are white; legs and belly white or yellowish-white. The figure represents significant individual changes.
The female is slightly smaller than the male, lighter than it and before it changes color.
Distributed circumpolarly – found in North America and in the north of Eurasia; there are in the British Isles. In Russia it is found from the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea to Kamchatka and Sakhalin.
Inhabits the tundra, forest-tundra and the north of the taiga zone; in the forests occurs mainly along moss bogs; in the mountains reaches the subalpine belt. Individuals living in swampy areas of England and especially Scotland, due to the milder climate do not change their color, and throughout the year they have a summer dress of chestnut brown color with brown feathers and gray legs.
Lifestyle and nutrition
White partridge is everywhere tied to shrubby vegetation, giving it the main food. The most characteristic places of its nesting are areas of open hummocky tundra, alternating with thickets of willow, dwarf birch and berry. In the southern regions, the partridges are usually sedentary; from the northern (tundra, arctic islands) fly for wintering to the south. The flight goes along the valleys of the rivers – Pechory, Ob, Yenisei, Lena, Kolyma. Since March, partridges begin to reverse movement to the nesting places.
Holds and feeds mostly on the ground, takes off only as a last resort. The white partridge is adapted to the terrestrial way of life: it quickly runs, thanks to its patronizing color, artfully concealed. On most of the range, she lives in winter conditions for 6-9 months a year, during the winter most of the day in “chambers” under the snow. In the harsh winters, he tears the passages in the snow with a part to find food, partly to hide from enemies.
White partridges are schooling birds that break into pairs only during the breeding season. In large flocks (up to 100-300 birds) are combined with seasonal flights; In winter, usually there are flocks of 5-15 birds.
Food is mainly vegetable; the number of animal feeds in adult birds is only 2-3% of the diet. In the winter months partridges eat kidneys and shoots of woody plants (especially willow and birch); in the summer – leaves, seeds, berries. Nestlings in the first days of life are fed mainly by insects.
Conjugation and Reproduction
In the spring the birds crumble along the thawed patches, and the males, having occupied the nesting territory, begin to care for the females. Between the males for nesting sites there are fierce fights, sometimes with a fatal outcome.
The mating ritual of the partridge includes the flight of a male with a wedding song, special cries and a series of poses and movements performed near the female. Being the restless time a silent bird, in the spring the white partridge is rather loud; in the midst of the mating season, males in the tundra are touted around the clock, especially intensively in the mornings and evenings; females produce croaking sounds. The song performed by the male during the current flight consists of a series of guttural sounds that are issued in strict sequence: the male silently flies over the ground a few tens of meters, then rises up to 15-20 meters with a cry of “kok”, steeply descends with a roaring trill “ke -ke-ke-krrrrr “and already on the ground finishes the song with a quiet” cab-cab-cabecab “.
White partridges are monogamous birds. Finally, they break up into pairs with the establishment of a stable warm weather. Egg laying in May-June. The female arranges a nest – a hole in the ground, lined with stems, branches and leaves, usually under the protection of shrubs.
In the laying of 5-20 pear-shaped motley eggs – pale yellowish and ocher-yellow with brown spots and dots. The female on the nest is approaching the person very close and at the risk of “withdrawing”; the male guards the site. The female incubates eggs 21-22 days.
The brood of the female immediately leads to a more protected place; The male keeps with them, along with the female showing concern for the offspring. Often several broods are united in one nomadic flock, in which adult birds together protect chicks. Parents are at chicks up to two months of age.
Sexual maturity partridge reach at one year of age.
Where white partridges and black grouse live together, there is sometimes a crossing of the males of the first with the females of the second, and hybrid individuals take place from this crossing.
Number and commercial significance
The number of white partridges varies by years. The 4-5-year cycle of fluctuations in their numbers is established, which is directly dependent on the number of lemmings: when it goes to waste, predators (arctic fox, white owl) switch to white partridges.
Of predators, only arctic fox and giraffe feed on white partridges regularly; Sketches of skuas, burgomasters and silver gulls attack the nestlings. Among the unfavorable for the number of factors, the nature of the weather during the hatching of chicks and the nature of spring are of great importance. Cold, prolonged spring often leads to the fact that most females do not begin to nest at all.
In the northern regions, especially in the forest-tundra, the ptarmigan is an object of commercial hunting. The meat of the ptarmigan is quite tasty, and therefore in pre-revolutionary Russia (before 1917) in winter, many of these killed birds were brought to the cities frozen.
White partridge is not very suitable for breeding in captivity; in cages, it survives much worse than other grouse birds