Fun Facts about Pheasants and Partridges

  • Although a common sight in the British countryside, both pheasants and red-legged partridges are non-native species. Pheasants originate all the way from Asia, and the red-legged partridge is from southwestern Europe (France, Iberia and northwest Italy)!
  • The red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa) and the common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) are 'game' birds in the pheasant family Phasianidae of the order Galliformes, gallinaceous birds.
  • The red-legged partridge is sometimes known as French partridge, to distinguish it from the English (or grey) partridge.
  • An adult male pheasant can reach up to 89cm in length, although most of that is accounted for by his long tail.
  • There are many colour forms of the male common pheasant, ranging in colour from nearly white to almost black. These are due to captive breeding and hybridization between subspecies and with the green pheasant.
  • Red-legged partridges and pheasants are regularly imported into the UK for shooting, where they will be reared in captivity.
  • When disturbed, red-legged partridges prefer to run rather than fly, but if necessary they fly a short distance.
  • You might sing “…and a partridge in a pear tree” every Christmas, but partridges are in fact ground nesting birds.
  • According to Greek myth, the first partridge appeared when Perdix was thrown from the sacred hill of Athena. Mindful of his fall, the bird therefore does not build its nest in trees.

Why we need to protect Pheasants and Partridges

'Game' bird shooting

Around 35 million pheasants and red-legged partridges, both non-native species in the UK, are released on UK shooting estates each year. These are not wild birds, they are factory farmed in much the same way as intensively reared chickens, yet are not protected by humane slaughter laws and many won’t even end up on someone’s plate. They are farmed and shot purely for sport, with many wounded and left to suffer.

In terms of numbers, more pheasants and partridges are killed in the name of ‘sport’ in the UK than any other animal.

What is the League doing to protect Pheasants and Partridges

  • Our video exposé Cruel Game in 2015 highlighted undercover footage of pheasants and partridges being bred for the bird shooting industry, taken both in France and the UK. We highlighted the conditions in which the birds are raised and kept, including barren cages with wire floors, leading to injuries, illness and death. This video has been shown to MPs to highlight the cruel nature of the shooting industry.
  • The video also led to two major ferry companies pledging not to carry pheasant and partridge chicks to the UK from France.
  • Cruel Game also led to an investigation into the breeding of 'Game' birds by the BBC Inside Out news programme. Broadcast in 2016, the programme also highlighted the conditions in which the birds are raised.
  • We are continuing to lobby and educate MPs about the shooting industry and will continue to push for a ban on the driven shooting of 'game' birds.

Pheasant in the grass

How can I help pheasants and partridges?

  • Write to your MP and express your concern about 'game' bird shooting
  • Join one of our supporter groups to help us raise awareness about pheasant and partridge shooting 
  • Share this page on your social media


Find out more

  • Check out more information on our shooting page