The wide area of distribution, the richest natural reserves and good commodity qualities have made the white partridge one of the most popular hunting birds of our country. In addition, it is interesting by a number of biological features that distinguish it from other birds.
The white partridge belongs to the order of chickens, the grouse family, and together with the tundra partridge and the white-tailed partridge living in North America, forms a genus of white partridges, which is different from other grouse densely, to claws with feathered legs and feathered nostrils.
The white partridge is a medium-sized bird, weighing 550 – 700 g. Seasonal variability is pronounced in the color of its plumage. In winter, the partridge is completely white, only the tail tail feathers remain dark, but even they are covered from above with white over-feathers and covering feathers. Among the white plumage only black eyes stand out in contrast, the beak and rods of wing wing feathers.
In the summer, the plumage of birds is white with a mixture of ocher and reddish tones. In the fall, there are the fusilier tones, blotched interspersed with the pale tones of the summer dress. In spring, the head, neck and goiter in males are reddish-red, the other parts of the plumage are white. Thus, during the year the males wear four, and the females have three well-marked seasonal outfits, patronizing coloring. In accordance with this, females molt three times, and males four times a year, which is rare among our birds.
Ptarmigan is common in Europe, partly in Asia and North America. The largest part of the range falls on the territory of the USSR. Here it is found from the western borders of the country to Kamchatka and from the islands of the Arctic Ocean to the southern parts of Belarus, the central regions of the European part of the USSR, the Middle Urals, Northern Kazakhstan, Altai, Khangai, the northern part of Lesser Khingan, Sikhote-Alin and the lower reaches of the Amur. Within the delineated boundaries, the white partridge inhabits the tundra, forest zone, forest-steppe and mountainous areas.
The native habitat of the white partridge is tundra. The largest stocks of this bird are concentrated here. Its favorite nesting sites are the areas of moderately humid, hummocky tundra, overgrown with berries, dwarf birch, and individual patches or small willow thickets. The proximity of shrubs favorably affects the density of nesting birds, but the partridge avoids dense and extensive willow thickets during the nesting period and prefers to stick along the edges of the open areas of the open tundra. At one square kilometer there are sometimes 25-30 pairs of this bird. Its reserves in the tundra are still far from being used.
In the forest belt the partridge is far from widespread. It is found here only in moss and peat bogs, which are overgrown with low-growing woody vegetation, characteristic of swampy soils, with shrubs and berries, located along the edges and on the bog itself. In the forest-steppe belt, birds keep along swampy or even dry birch, aspen, and alder pegs and copses with dense shrub thickets and high thick grass, as well as in birch forests, on pine forest edges. In mountainous areas, it is found only in the Alpine and subalpine zones, descending into the lower belts and valleys only in winter. In the mountains, a partridge to the thickets of low-growing alpine birch and willow trees on swampy soils.
Relatively many partridges and in the forest-steppe zone, where in small isolated birch dredging one encounters a significant number of nesting pairs.
The density of the white partridge in mountainous areas is very different and in some cases reaches (in Altai) ten broods on an area of 20 hectares.
Many birds live in the forest zone, although their density here is relatively small.
In early spring, with the advent of the first thaws, the spring gambling screams of the males are already heard – signs of an approaching marriage pore. With an increase in the number of thaw openings, winter flocks of partridges break and settle in favorable habitats. Males begin to care for females, often making loud mating screams, while making characteristic current flights. Males choose a suitable place for nesting. They vigilantly inspect their nesting site from some mound or other exalted place, and they passionately attack an opponent who has dared to invade foreign territory. Soon, all suitable places are occupied by males, the whole territory suitable for nesting is divided into separate breeding areas, for the possession of which fights break out every now and then.
Changing the behavior of females. If before that they paid little attention to males and flew from one place to another, now they are beginning to stubbornly stick to a certain section and one male, forming a constant pair with it.
After the spring finally comes into its own and the soil gets rid of excessive moisture, the partridge starts laying eggs. In the southern regions this is observed in the first half of May, in the northern in the second half of May and the first half of June.