Surrogate hens help wild grey partridges return to Highlands

Grey partridges have made a comeback in the Scottish Highlands for the first time in 20 years, after bantam hens were enlisted to act as surrogates.

Published: September 20th, 2017 at 11:29 am
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After disappearing from the Tomatin moors in the late 1990’s, a recovery programme was started in 2011 by the Clune Estate team to revive the species.


The project saw wild grey partridge eggs transported from England to Kinveachy, Scotland, to be reared using Bantam hens as surrogate egg-sitters. After several attempts the chicks were successfully reared.

Wild Grey Partridges reared beneath their surrogate Bantam Hens ©Tomatin Moorland Group

As a result of the conservation work, there are now 15 pairs of wild grey partridges living in moorland at the Clune Estate.

Duncan Mackenzie, Head Gamekeeper at Clune Estate, said: “I was aware there had previously been wild grey partridges on the estate and that other moors had wild greys. We did some research about how to give them a helping hand and we discovered that sometimes bantam hens will brood the eggs of other species all the way up until they hatch.”

Pair of Grey Partridges ready to adopt some new chicks ©Tomatin Moorland Group

The next stage of the project aims to reintroduce the species to estates in Findhorn and Dulnain.

Jenny McCallum, coordinator of the Tomatin Moorland Group, said: “This conservation project initiated and managed by the estate’s game keeping staff that has resulted in small healthy populations of grey partridge on Corrybrough, Clune and Kinveachy. This initiative is another example of the conservation work taking place on moors throughout Scotland to protect wildlife and create healthy habitats for numerous species.”


Main image ©Getty



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