PARTRIDGE (קֹרֵא, H7926, partridge, all Eng. VSS; from call cok cok cokrr; cf. chukor, a closely related partridge from SW Asia). Two species are found in Pal. (1) Rock partridge (Alectoris graeca), which lives in a wide range of country from the coastal plains to the dry hills of Judea and the mountains of Lebanon. It is similar in size and appearance to the closely related Red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa), a native of SW Europe that has been widely introduced to other parts of Europe and into N America. The white cheeks, bordered with black, and the strikingly barred flanks make it easily recognizable. It is about fourteen inches long. (2) Desert partridge (Ammoperdix heyi), which is half the size and found only in the rocky regions around the Dead Sea and in the Negev and Sinai deserts. It is plentiful around such oases as Ein Gedi. Living in bare country with little cover, it is sandy-colored and very hard to see when it squats.

Both kinds are more often heard than seen. They are reluctant to fly, and run fast until forced to get up; they then drop into the next available bit of cover. This habit is reflected in the first of the only two Biblical references to “partridge.” “Like one who hunts a partridge in the mountains” (1 Sam 26:20), so David described Saul pursuing him from one hiding place to another. The words were spoken near Ein Gedi but are equally applicable to both partridges. The only other direct mention is in Jeremiah 17:11, a fig. passage quoting a curious natural history belief, “As the partridge that sitteth on eggs which she hath not laid, so is he that getteth riches, and not by right” (ASV). This is given in more detail by the Arab. historian al Damir (see Bochart and Rosenmüller, Hierozoicon, II, 85). The mother bird is said to remove eggs from another nest and incubate them only to find that the birds return to their own mother when reared. There may be some basis for the story, though the deduction is prob. wrong. Arabs today believe that the hen lays in two separate nests, one of which is looked after by the cock, and there is some evidence that this may also be true of the Red-legged partridge.

The partridge’s name is seen in the place El hakkore—the spring of him who cried (Judg 15:19)—and a person Kore, the crier (1 Chron 9:19). Game birds are universally regarded as good eating, and it is presumed that partridges were among the birds taken in “the snare of the fowler” (Ps 91:3, etc.).


G. R. Driver, PEQ (1955), 132; P. Arnold, Birds of Israel (1962).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

a bird of the family Tetraonidae. The Hebrew word for this bird, qore’, means "a caller," and the Latin perdix is supposed to be an imitation of its cry, and as all other nations base their name for the bird on the Latin, it becomes quite evident that it was originally named in imitation of its call. The commonest partridge of Palestine, very numerous in the wilderness and hill country, was a bird almost as large as a pheasant. It had a clear, exquisite cry that attracted attention, especially in the mating season. The partridge of the wilderness was smaller and of beautifully marked plumage. It made its home around the Dead Sea, in the Wilderness of Judea and in rocky caverns. Its eggs were creamy white; its cry very similar to its relatives’. The partridge and its eggs were used for food from time immemorial.

The first reference to it is found in 1Sa 26:20: "Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth away from the presence of Yahweh: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains." David in this dialogue with Saul clearly indicates that if he did not hunt the partridge himself, he knew how it was done. The birds were commonly chased up the mountains and stunned or killed with "throw sticks." David knew how deft these birds were at hiding beside logs and under dry leaves colored so like them as to afford splendid protection; how swiftly they could run; what expert dodgers they were; so he compared taking them with catching a flea. The other reference is found in Jer 17:11: "As the partridge that sitteth on eggs which she hath not laid, so is he that getteth riches, and not by right; in the midst of his days they shall leave him, and at his end he shall be a fool." If this reference is supposed to indicate that partridges are in the habit of brooding on the nest of their kind or of different birds, it fails wholly to take into consideration the history of the bird. Partridges select a location, carefully deposit an egg a day for from 10 to 15 days, sometimes 20, and then brood, so that all the young emerge at one time. But each bird knows and returns to its nest with unfailing regularity. It would require the proverbial "Philadelphia lawyer" to explain this reference to a "partridge sitting on eggs she had not laid." No ornithologist ever could reconcile it to the habits or characteristics of the birds. the King James Version translated these lines, "As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not." This was easy to explain clearly. The eggs of the partridge were delicious food, and any brooding bird whose nest was discovered after only a few days of incubation did not hatch, because she lost her eggs. Also the eggs frequently fall prey to other birds or small animals. Again, they are at the mercy of the elements, sometimes being spoiled by extremely wet cold weather. Poultry fanciers assert that a heavy thunder storm will spoil chicken eggs when hatchingtime is close; the same might be true with eggs of the wild. And almost any wild bird will desert its nest and make its former brooding useless, if the location is visited too frequently by man or beast.

There is also a partridge reference in the Book of Ecclesiasticus 11:29 ff the Revised Version (British and American)): "Bring not every man into thine house; for many are the plots of the deceitful man. As a decoy partridge in a cage, so is the heart of a proud man; and as one that is a spy, he looketh upon thy falling. For he lieth in wait to turn things that are good into evil; and in things that are praiseworthy he will lay blame." The reference is to confining a tame partridge in a hidden cage so that its calls would lure many of its family within range of arrows or "throw sticks" used by concealed hunters.

Gene Stratton-Porter

See also

  • Birds