email a friend
printable version
Rock Partridge Alectoris graeca

This species has been uplisted to Near Threatened because despite its relatively large population and range, a recent assessment of the available evidence has found that the species is likely to be undergoing a moderately rapid population reduction owing to habitat degradation and over-hunting in some areas.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note


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. 

Distribution and population
Alectoris graeca is endemic to Europe, occurring only in the Alps, the Apennines, Sicily and the Balkans. It is suspected to be declining moderately rapidly, particularly in the Balkans which hold a substantial proportion of the species's population and range, based on a balanced assessment of the available evidence (e.g. Griffin 2011, A. Bernard-Laurent in litt. 2012). Within the Balkans, it breeds in Albania (strong decline is suspected since c.1995), Bosnia and Herzegovina (c.10,000 pairs and thought to have declined strongly in the last few decades [Sucic 2008]), Bulgaria (declining numbers and distribution since the 1960s [Iankov 2007]), Croatia (6,000-10,000 pairs [Tutis et al. in press] and considered to be declining with several local extinctions reported [Budinski et al. 2010]), Greece (apparently stable population in 2005-2011 [Bontzorlos et al. 2011] although the national Red List reports on-going declines and local extirpations in its range [Handrinos and Katsadorakis 2009]), Macedonia FYR (2,000–5,000 pairs [Velevski et al. in press], no current evidence for a decline), Montenegro (declined from 3,000–4,000 pairs [Puzovic et al. 2003] to c.1,300 pairs in 2010-2011 [Saveljic et al. 2011]), Serbia (declined by c. 20-30% in the 1990s to c. 1,000–1,500 pairs [Puzovic et al. 2009]). Elsewhere in the species's range, declines have been reported in Albania (common but declining [Z. Dedej and A. Postoli in litt. 2012]), Austria (R. Lentner in litt. 2012), Italy (a range reduction in the Apennine Mountains in the last 10-15 years and a decline of 11% in the last 20 years in Sicily [Lo Valvo et al. 1993, M. Lo Valvo in litt. 2012]) and Switzerland (long-term fluctuations followed by recent declines [V. Keller and N. Zbinden in litt. 2012]). Population monitoring in France from 1981 to 2011 has shown the population to be fluctuating (A. Bernard-Laurent in litt. 2012). A small population persists in Slovenia where current trend is unknown. The global population is estimated at c.80,000–150,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2004).

Population justification
The breeding population, which is confined to Europe, is estimated to number 40,000-78,000 breeding pairs, equating to 120,000- 230,000 individuals (BirdLife International 2004).

Trend justification
The species is suspected to be declining moderately rapidly, particularly in the Balkans, based on a balanced assessment of the available evidence (e.g. Griffin 2011, A. Bernard-Laurent in litt. 2012). The species is declining owing to habitat degradation caused by agricultural intensification and urbanization. It is also declining owing to over-hunting in some areas (del Hoyo et al. 1994). 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.

The species utilises a variety of habitats and different altitudes, up to 3000m 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), reduced connectivity between metapopulations (Cattadori et al. 2003), disturbance, poaching, 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 measures underway
EU Birds Directive Annex I. The species is classified as 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.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Barilani, M.; Bernard-Laurent, A.; Mucci, N.; Tabarroni, C.; Kark, S.; Garrido, J. A. P.; Randi, E. 2007. Hybridisation with introduced chukars (Alectoris chukar) threatens the gene pool integrity of native Rock (A. graeca) and Red-legged (A. rufa) Partridge populations. Biological Conservation 137(1): 57-69.

Bernard-Laurent A. and Leonard Y. 2000 . Vulnerability of an alpine population of rock partridge (Alectoris graeca saxatilis) to climatic events : evaluation with deterministic and stochastic models. Game and Wildlife Science 17(2): 63-79.

Bernard-Laurent, A. and de Franceschi, P. F. 1994. Status, trends, and limiting factors of Rock Partridge (Alectoris graeca saxatilis) populations. Game and Wildlife 11: 267-307.

BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Bontzorlos, V., Vlachos, C. G., Chatzinikos, E., Dedousopoulou, E. A. and Kiousis, D. K. 2011. Rock partridge Alectoris graeca population density and trend in central Greece. 30th IUGB Congress Abstract Book: 115.

Budinski, I., Čulina, A., Mikulić, K. and Jurinović, L. 2010. Bird species that have significantly changed breeding range on Croatian coastal area: comparison of 30 years old data and recent knowledge. Bird Census News 23: 49-58.

Cattadori, I. M., Ranci-Ortigosa, G., Gatto, M. and Hudson, P. J. 2003. Is the rock partridge Alectoris graeca saxatilis threatened in the Dolomitic Alps? Animal Conservation 6: 71–81.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Griffin, C. 2011. Rock Partridge Alectoris graeca population assessment. Methodology for Bird Species Recovery Planning in the European Union. Final Report to the European Commission. FACE and BirdLife International for the European Commission, Cambridge, UK.

Handrinos, G. and Katsadorakis, G. 2009. Rock Partridge Alectoris graeca. In: Legakis, A. and Maragou, P. (eds), The Red Data Book of Threatened Greek Animals, pp. 290-291. Hellenic Zoological Society, Athens [in Greek, with English summary].

Iankov, P. 2007. Atlas of breeding birds in Bulgaria. BSPB, Sofia.

Lo Valvo M., Massa B., Sarà M. 1993. Uccelli e paesaggio in Sicilia alle soglie del terzo millennio. Naturalista sicil 17 (suppl.): 1-376.

Manios, N., Papazahariadou, M., Frydas, S., Papageorgiou, N., Tsachalidis, E. and Gergopoulou, J. 2002. Tetrathyridium as a mortality factor of rock partridge (Alectoris graeca graeca) in Central Greece. European Journal of Wildlife Research 48: 378-382.

Puzović, S., Sekulić, G., Stojnić, N., Grubač, B. and Tucakov, M. 2009. Important Bird Areas in Serbia. Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia, Provincial Secretariat for Environment and Sustainable Development, Belgrade, Serbia.

Puzović, S., Simic, D., Saveljić, D., Gergelj, J., Tucakov, M., Stojnić, N., Hulo, I., Ham, I., Vizi, O., Sciban, M., Ruzic, M., Vucanovic, M. and Jovanovic, T. 2003. Birds of Serbia and Montenegro – size of nesting populations and trends: 1990-2002. Ciconia 12: 36-120.

Randi, E. 2008. Detecting hybridization between wild species and their domesticated relatives. Molecular Ecology 17: 285–293.

Saveljić, D., Rubinić, B. and Jovićević, M. 2011. Istraživanje indikatorskih vrsta ptica na Durmitoru tokom 2010: godine procjena stanja njihovih populacija. Nature Protection in 21st Century Conference Proceedings Book II.

Sučić, I. 2008. Rock partridge (Alectoris graeca) population size on mountain Tušnica in the period between 2000 and 2007. Sumarski list br 7–8: 331-336.

Tutiš, V., Kralj, J., Radović, D., Ćiković, D. and Barišić, S. In press. Red Data Book of Birds of Croatia 2010. State Institute for Nature Protection, Zagreb, Croatia.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Derhé, M., Ekstrom, J.

Bernard-Laurent, A., Lo Valvo, M., Postoli, A., Dedej, Z., Lentner, R., Zbinden, N., Keller, V., Nipkow, M., Sorace, A., Vlachos, C.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Alectoris graeca. Downloaded from on 25/07/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/07/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Phasianidae (Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse)
Species name author (Meisner, 1804)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 538,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species