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Israel Environment & Nature: Partridge

PARTRIDGE (Heb. חָגְלָה, ḥoglah), bird. Two species of the partridge are found in Israel, the see-see partridge (Ammoperdix heyi) and the chukar partridge (Alectoris graeca).

The latter is called ḥajel in Arabic, which is the ḥoglah mentioned as the name of one of Zelophehad's daughters (Num. 26:33) and as the place-name Beth-Hoglah (Josh. 15:6). These two species of partridge, which are kosher birds, are extensively hunted because of their delicious meat. They belong to the family of pheasants, like the *pheasant and the *quail , which are both included in the Talmud among four species of game birds, the best of which is stated to be the שִׁכְלִי (shikhli), apparently the chukar partridge, and the least tasty the quail (Yoma 75b). The two species of partridge mentioned above are distinguished by the intensive cries of the male during the breeding season, so that the biblical name קוֹרֵא (kore, "calling") is appropriate for both of them, although it is applied nowadays only to the see-see partridge. This bird is found in large flocks in the Judean Desert and the Negev. In the breeding season the partridges separate into pairs, and the female lays between five and 14 eggs in a nest. Sometimes two females lay eggs in the same nest, in which case one gains the upper hand and drives the other away; however her small body is unable to keep such a large number of eggs warm, so that eventually the embryos die.

It was to this that the proverb referred when speaking of one who robs another of his possessions without ultimately deriving any benefit: "As the partridge that broodeth over young which she hath not brought forth, so is he that getteth riches, and not by right; in the midst of his days he shall leave them" (Jer. 17:11). A similar phenomenon occurs sometimes in the chukar partridge's nest. These two species of partridge feed on seeds and on insects which they hunt, a circumstance referred to in David's question when he asked Saul why he washunting him "as the partridge hunts" (the flea; I Sam. 26:20). In the Mishnah (Ḥul. 12:2) the kore is mentioned as a kosher bird, the male of which also sits on the eggs, as is indeed done by the partridge. Some (Rashi and others) identified the kore with the cuckoo, but this identification is incorrect and was rejected already by the tosafot (to Ḥul. 63a S.V. neẓ).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.