20 NOVEMBER 1926, Page 15


All naturalists owe a debt to Dr. Collinge for his investi- gations into the food of birds. He has proved even the alleged criminals to be useful citizens. He is very scientific in his methods ; but I venture to suggest a possible error in his conclusions. The latest subject of his careful autopsies is the partridge, which at the worst has very few economic enemies. No politician has accused it of devouring turnips. It is not a bad gardener, as undoubtedly the pheasant is, if only because of its peculiar fondness for anemone fulgens. It will cat them off as greedily as a hare or rabbit will shear carnations. I believe Dr. Collinge when he reports that the partridge is harmless, that his consumption even of grain is only 3.5 per cent., though it is certainly more where barley stubbles are plentiful. But any generalization about the proportion of animal food and vegetable food is quite vain unless it is made in respect of particular dates. It may be true of one period of the year (that when partridges arc most easily killed) that 40.5 per cent. of the diet is animal ; but the partridge in winter (if my own investigations have any accuracy) lives almost wholly on the tips of green shoots, of grasses and weeds. The diet of the January partridge is as different from the diet of the September-October partridge as the diet of the wren from the diet of the finch.