Friday, June 24, 2016

A Partridge in a City Field

Josh had another big suggestion for me on my trip back from North Dakota on June 11th, and that was to go after another life bird after I birded at Felton Prairie.  As Felton Prairie is in Minnesota, the next stop would take me back west for about a thirty minute drive back into Fargo, North Dakota.  Josh gave me directions to a sporting goods store called Scheels, which is just a few miles north of Interstate 94.  Once at the Scheels, I would go just northwest of the store and to a random field kitty-corner of the store.  This field had some short and tall grass in it, as well as a dirt mound in the center of the field that really stood out.  Surrounding the dirt mound were some very tall weeds and grass, which would make the perfect shelter for birds.  For me to drive to some random field in the center of a city, it would have to be a pretty cool bird.  Not long before I came here, Josh was here after another birder was here.  Josh was chasing a Gray Partridge pair, and he had killer looks at them after someone else had found them in this weird field.  I was hoping to repeat the sequence.  Siri took me to the Scheels, and once at Scheels I went over to the field, which was very obvious.

See the dirt mound in the field that is covered by weeds and grass?  That was the mound Josh was referring to, and that was the mound that he found the Gray Partridges hanging out on.  When Josh went, it didn't take him very long to locate the birds.  He pretty much walked up to them.  I was hoping to do the same thing.  I practically ran up to the mound and walked around the mound rather quickly.  The hope was to see the birds right away or to flush them and see where they would land.  After one quick go-around circling the mound, I saw movement in the weeds.  I was certain the movement was the birds at first, until a few young rabbits and their mother ran out of the weeds.  Once I didn't turn up the Gray Partridges after circling the mound and covering good ground on the mound, I decided to walk out in the field and focused on the field's taller grasses in case the birds were sitting in them.  Nope.

I talked to Josh more and he told me that Gray Partridges don't flush easily.  He said that hunters and birders will often walk slowly and linger over habitat for a long time in order to spook the birds up.  As I quickly walked around the mound, I figured I didn't quite approach the technique.  So I went back to mound, and started to walk around it slowly.  During this second and slow go-around, I would pause often too.  I wanted to see those Gray Partridges a lot more at this point than I had wanted to see of them before.  After starting at the east side of the mound, I worked my way over to the west side of the mound.  Where I had detected the rabbits at, I decided to walk even more slowly and paused a lot more often.  And then it happened.  The two Gray Partridges sprang up at a close range and flew south of the mound!  As they flew, I could see one of their best field marks clearly, which were their broad rufous outer tail feathers.  I couldn't see where they landed due to the height of the dirt mound in front of me, but when I got that clear view, I saw one of them walking around nervously in the open grass!

I wasn't able to see where the other went, but one was awesome enough!  The Gray Partridge is 12.5 inches in length and is a medium-sized gamebird.  This bird is not native to North America, but was introduced from Europe as a gamebird for hunting purposes.  It ranges in Canada and the northern Lower 48 United States, where it lives in a variety of open areas such as fields, agriculture, farmlands, brush, and grasslands.  The Gray Partridge is larger than a quail but is smaller than a grouse.  The lighting wasn't the best during my observation, so it is a little hard to tell whether this bird is the male or the female.

What was funny about the sighting was the fact of how close it was to streets within Fargo that were within shopping centers and neighborhoods.  The city of Fargo isn't without field and brushy habitats though, and these habitats can be found throughout the city.  Some birds don't need much to thrive.

I'm pretty sure this bird was the female, it's face doesn't seem reddish-orangish enough..

The Partridge was terrified of me and didn't stay around for long.  It even walked along the edge of the street to give itself more cover as it was trying to avoid me.

As I tried to get closer, the bird took flight and clearly showed it's red outer tail feathers, which is distinctive for this bird.

The bird landed once more in the field briefly before flying away from the field itself and to the south.  I had no idea where it went after that, and I couldn't locate it's mate.  But here are a few more pictures of the bird in flight: one close up, and one of the bird flying to the southeast, where you can see the Scheels store in the background!

For years I've always thought of a Partridge as being mentioned in a famous Christmas song.  This time, it was cool to be looking at a live and wild one.  And it wasn't in a pear tree, but rather a field in midst of a city.  Certainly a cool bird, and one that I'm glad that I chased.  The Gray Partridge is also cool on this blog because it is the 500th bird species I have documented on here.  Documented birds include birds that I have photographed and sound recorded, and most of them (with the exception of just a few), I have photographed.  After enjoying this bird, I stopped at a Little Ceasers to pizza up and head straight back to Kandiyohi.

Thanks Josh for another great suggestion and life bird!


  1. How was the Little Ceaser's?:) That's awesome Tommy! Congrats. That is a pretty rare bird for Wisconsin. Nice pics!

    1. Thanks Chris! The Little Ceaser's was great, as usual! Gray Partridge was even better...

  2. I have always enjoyed your blog and reading about your adventures. However, did you really run that partridge completely out of it habitat just to get some pictures?

    1. Scott,

      Funny question to publicly ask someone. The answer is no, I didn't flush the bird out of the field just to get pictures. It landed right by the vehicle I was driving on the south side of the field and went further south of the field to more good habitat after I barely started walking towards it. I was shocked to see it go the way it did, when it had a lot to fly to in the original field. And again it was a life bird, so I was excited to see it.

      With how passionate I am about birding and how much I write about it, it makes sense that I care about birds and their welfare.

  3. Good to know, it was unclear to me when reading and it seemed very unlike you.

    Congratulations on a great trip.

  4. Funny thing about game birds is that they...flush. It's what they do. And they will return to good habitat. Even game birds, like pheasants, that get flushed by dogs and people and get SHOT AT will return to the exact same areas because if it's good habitat, then that's where they will be. The only difference is that game birds become more wary and just flush a lot further from the intruder in the future.

    Congratulations on tallying an elusive bird for your life list, Tommy, and getting some photos to go with it. Take it from this birder and hunter, you did no harm to the bird--even if you would have flushed and reflushed and reflushed that bird to get pictures (which you didn't). You would never get that opportunity on the Partridge that aren't city slickers, so I'm glad you capitalized on the opportunity those feathery citizens of Fargo gave you.

    1. Thanks Josh!

      One earlier dumb comment deserves an epic comment like this one--you said it all right here!

      They flush....that's what they do!

      I'm sure that Partridge and his mate are sitting on the mound right now as we speak..