Dendrortyx barbatusbearded wood partridge(Also: bearded wood-partridge)

Geographic Range

Bearded wood-partridges are found in the Neotropical region, in Mexico. They make their home mainly along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range and the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca pine-oak forests. There are significant populations of bearded wood-partridges in Veracruz, as well as in Quetaro, Puebla, Hidalgo, and San Luis Potosi. ("ITIS Standard Report Page: Dendrortyx barbatus", 2006; Butler, 2006)


Bearded wood-partridges make their homes in dense and humid pine-oak, cloud, and second-growth forests that are often quite secluded. They have also been known to live in shade coffee plantations and other agricultural habitats. These birds are riparian and will often stay close to small rivers and streams. ("BirdLife Species Factsheet", 2006; Edwards, 1972; Edwards, 1998; Gale, 2005)

  • Range elevation
    900 to 3100 m
    2952.76 to 10170.60 ft

Physical Description

Bearded wood-partridges are one of the larger species of partridge. Overall, they are a brownish reddish color with wings that are darker and mottled with black and tan. They have a gray-blue head and neck, with a small, brown crest. They have other gray streaks around the mantle and chest. The underside is a light brown, and they have distinctive red legs, bill, and eye-ring. They are usually between 400 and 460 g in weight and 22 to 36 cm in length. The sexes are alike in appearance, but males are larger. ("BirdLife Species Factsheet", 2006; Elphick, et al., 2001; Gale, 2005)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    400 to 460 g
    14.10 to 16.21 oz
  • Range length
    22 to 36 cm
    8.66 to 14.17 in
  • Average length
    34 cm
    13.39 in
  • Range wingspan
    40 to 50 cm
    15.75 to 19.69 in


Males use vocal calls in courtship. Although specific information on the mating system for this species could not be found, close relatives of bearded wood-partridges are monogamous. Once a male and female pair up, they behave aggressively towards other males and females. (Eitniear, et al., 2001; Elphick, et al., 2001)

Little is currently known about the reproductive behavior of bearded wood-partridges. Captive birds often have broods of 5 chicks, construct nests in shallow holes in the ground and line them with palm leaves. Partridges in general usually have only one brood per year. Bearded wood-partridges breed between April and June. Close relatives of bearded wood-partridges incubate eggs for approximately 18 days. The chicks are precocial, develop rapidly and are often capable of short flight within 7 to 14 days. The nest is not reused. Time to independence is not known but individuals reach sexual maturity between one and two years. (Elphick, et al., 2001; Gale, 2005)

  • Breeding interval
    Bearded wood-partridges generally have 1 brood per year.
  • Breeding season
    Bearded wood-partridges breed from April to June.
  • Average eggs per season
  • Average time to hatching
    18 days
  • Range fledging age
    7 to 14 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 to 2 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 to 2 years

Bearded wood-partridges are generally monogamous and both parents play a role in taking care of the offspring. The female does most of the incubating but occasionally the male will help incubate the eggs. The young are precocial and begin foraging with their parents soon after hatching. The mother and father work together to defend their territory and to provide the chicks with food. (Edwards, 1972; Elphick, et al., 2001)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


Nothing is known for certain about the life-span of bearded wood-partridges but partridges in general have a life-span of between 1 and 5 years. Close relatives of bearded wood-partridges have an average life-span of around 3 years. (Elphick, et al., 2001)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 to 5 years


Bearded wood-partridges are a social species and form groups or "convoys." They spend most of their time on the ground in thickets and roost in small trees or tall shrubs. They are wary and are easily frightened; many locals hear the birds call but never see them. (Elphick, et al., 2001; Gale, 2005; Stiles and Skutch, 1989)

Home Range

Because these birds are generally monogamous, once a bond pair forms, the two birds defend a "mobile territory." This is a relatively small area that both the male and female will defend from others. This territory moves with the birds as they travel. (Elphick, et al., 2001)

Communication and Perception

Bearded wood-partridges are known locally for their chorus calls. These birds usually call at dawn or dusk, and choruses last 15 to 20 minutes; it is considered a way for the birds to announce their location to each other and to other flocks. Calls of males are a series of loud, shrill whistles, often with three or four syllables; females have a softer call with more syllables. ("BirdLife Species Factsheet", 2006; Eitniear, et al., 2001)

Food Habits

Little is known about the feeding habits of bearded wood-partridges but, like their close relatives, they eat fruits, nuts, berries, vegetation and small invertebrates. They scratch the leaf litter and ground in search of food. Bearded wood-partridges often eat crops such as beans and corn near their homes. In captivity bearded wood-partridges have been observed to eat beans, corns, grapes, and bananas. (Edwards, 1972; Elphick, et al., 2001; Gale, 2005)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


Bearded wood-partridges have been hunted by humans. Because they often live near or even within agricultural fields or crops, the locals look at them as pests and thus take measures against them. No other specific natural predators are known, but it is likely that many small to medium-sized predators, including cat species and birds of prey may take these partridges. Their cryptic coloration helps them to blend into the undergrowth in habitats they occupy and their flocking behavior means that more eyes are watching for predators at any given time. (Eitniear, et al., 2001)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Bearded wood-partridges are mainly primary consumers, feeding on fruits, nuts and seeds. As a result, they aid plants in reproduction by dispersing some plant seeds. These birds also dig in the soil for invertebrates and other food, which helps to break up the soil and allow more water and air to enter. (Elphick, et al., 2001)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Humans hunt bearded wood-partridges for sport and for food, but these birds are not otherwise of great economic importance to humans. (Aguilar, 2006)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Because humans have moved into much of the habitat of the bearded wood-partridges, these birds often forage for food on agricultural land, and are therefore considered crop pests in some places. (Aguilar, 2006)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Due to habitat destruction (housing and agricultural development) and hunting, these birds are now considered locally extinct in some areas of Mexico and are listed as a species in high risk of extinction in the wild. Bearded wood-partridges are currently classified as "vulnerable" on the IUCN red list. They were first listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 1988, and were reassessed by BirdLife International in 2005. It is estimated that there are fewer than 5,400 individuals in the world. Though recent studies suggest there are more individuals than estimated, populations continue to decline.

Few measures have been taken to help increase the bearded wood-partridge population, but several conservation awareness programs targeted towards villages near partridge habitat have been proposed. This species was successfully reintroduced to Xalapa in 2005. Ongoing research if focused on learning more about these birds so that they can be better protected. (Aguilar, 2006; Butler, 2006; Eitniear, et al., 2001)


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Madoka McAllister (author), Kalamazoo College, Ann Fraser (editor, instructor), Kalamazoo College.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


to jointly display, usually with sounds, at the same time as two or more other individuals of the same or different species


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

soil aeration

digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


The term is used in the 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Endangered (E), Vulnerable (V), Rare (R), Indeterminate (I), or Insufficiently Known (K) and in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), or Vulnerable (VU).


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


2006. "BirdLife Species Factsheet" (On-line). BirdLife International. Accessed October 14, 2006 at

2006. "Grey Partridge" (On-line). The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Accessed November 13, 2006 at

2006. "ITIS Standard Report Page: Dendrortyx barbatus" (On-line). ITIS Report. Accessed October 14, 2006 at

Aguilar, S. 2006. "The Reintroduction of Bearded Wood-Partridge in Xalapa Has Been Successful" (On-line). Mexico eBird. Accessed October 14, 2006 at

Butler, R. 2006. "Dendrortyx barbatus" (On-line). BETA: Biodiversity Education Through Action. Accessed October 14, 2006 at

Edwards, E. 1972. A Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico. Sweet Briar: Ernest P. Edwards.

Edwards, E. 1998. A Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Adjacent Areas. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Eitniear, J., S. Aguilar-Rodriguez, J. Baccus, J. Carroll. 2001. Response Rates of Bearded Wood-Partridges to Playback of a Recorded Call. Vida Silvestre Neotropical, 10: 1-2. Accessed October 14, 2006 at

Elphick, C., J. Dunning, Jr., D. Sibley. 2001. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior. New York: Chanticleer Press, Inc..

Gale, T. 2005. "Bearded Wood-Partridge Information" (On-line). Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. Accessed October 14, 2006 at

Stiles, F., A. Skutch. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Ithaca, New York: Comstock Publishing Associates.