This September, October and November Norfolk Wildlife Trust is asking people to look out for three species associated with the wider countryside, in particular farmland. If you spot grey partridges, yellowhammers or linnets in Norfolk please share your sighting with us.
How to spot a grey partridge
Partridges are distinctive birds; plump, rounded, with short legs they spend much time on the ground and outside the breeding season are found in small groups known as coveys. The male grey partridge has an orangey head and throat, a mottled grey and brown back and wings and paler underparts with a distinctive nut-brown horseshoe mark on the belly. The female is similar but duller and lacks the orange on the head and the distinct belly patch.
In spring a distinctive ‘chirrick chirrick’ may draw your attention to the presence of a grey partridge. Grey partridges are only likely to be confused with two other species – the pheasant and the red-legged partridge. At most times of year the long tail of the pheasant prevents any confusion. Young pheasants lack the long tail but are sandy brown in colour. Red-legged partridges are similar in shape but have cream cheeks, a red bill, red legs, black barring on their sides and lack the horseshoe marking on the belly.
Partridges are said on average only to spend three minutes a day in flight! Flight is fast, low and direct – a covey whirring on rounded wings low over a hedgerow can be quite alarming if you are driving.
How to spot a yellowhammer
Both song and plumage are distinctive. The male’s bright, golden yellow head and breast together with his repetitive ‘little bit of bread and no cheese’ song, often sung from the highest branch of the hedgerow or from the top of a tree, is characteristic. The female is a duller streaky-brown on the breast and has a more sombre yellow head and breast than the male. In flight both male and female show a chestnut rump and white outer tail feathers.
How to spot a linnet
A common, small finch of heathland, scrub and farmland, the linnet feeds on seeds and is present in the UK all year-round. In winter, they may form large flocks with other seedeaters, roaming the countryside and feeding on stubbles, saltmarshes and wasteland.
Linnet males have brown backs, grey heads, and pink foreheads and chests. Females are paler, streaky and lack the pink patches.