28 AUGUST 1926, Page 27


A query has reached me concerning a certain covey of part. ridges, whose activities have become very visible since the

wheat-field was cut ; there are six youngsters and three old birds. Now we know that the partridge is the best of all parents. The cock looks after his family with as much assiduity as the hen. He will sit on the eggs, occasionally side by side with his wife, and he is an incomparable nurse. One of the most successful of the methods of semi-artificial breeding is founded on the parental virtue. Again, in the early spring it is a very common thing to see three partridges together, as a rule two males bidding for the favour of one female ; but when the choice is made the third, as a rule, vanishes. What happens to the odd birds that cannot find

mates is a problem that no ornithologist has adequately dealt with. Do they take on the duties of a maiden aunt or bachelor

uncle ? The third old bird in the covey in question is known in one household as " the maiden aunt." She is as attentive as the parents proper and fusses over the chicks in the same manner ; but her gender seems to be conjectural. Such a menage seems natural enough with birds in which the parental, not to say maternal instinct is so strongly developed ; and from one's knowledge of this delightful bird it is equally likely that an uncle or an aunt should wish to be included in the family circle. It would be interesting to know of parallels to the incident.