Description of species:

Sicilian Rock Partridge Alectoris graeca whitakeri
Alectoris graeca (Meisner, 1804) is a galliform comes from the Phasanidae Family.
This specie left the Alps to the Balkan peninsula, until the Bulgaria (Bernard-Laurent & Boev, 1997). In Italy, they live in the Alps, in the Karst, in the southern-centre of Apennines and in Sicily (Priolo & Bocca, 1992). The actual areale results reduced of 34%: the reduction starts since the second world war, with an accentuated decrease from 1970 (cfr. Del Hoyo et al, 1994; Bernard-Laurent & Boev, 1997; Palumbo & Lo Valvo, 2002; Birdlife International, 2004).
Alectoris graeca is a politype specie, with several subspecies, such as: Alectoris graeca whitakeri, an endemic taxon living exclusively in Sicily. Studies carried out on the species by Randi et al. (2003), apart from confirmed the specie real validity, satisfy the criterions that allows to consider the Sicilian Rock Partridge as an Evolutionary Significant Unit (ESU, sensu Moritz, 1994).
Rock Partridge is listed in Annex II/1 of the Birds Directive and in Annex III of the Bern Convention. It is considered vulnerable due to a large decline and is classified SPEC 2 (Tucker & Heath, 1994; Birdlife International, 2004). The subspecies Sicilian Rock Partridge is listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive (CEE/79/409).

Habitats:

Sicilian Rock Partridge prefers open habitat, constituted by rocky areas, grasses, herbaceous land and essences of Mediterranean blob; it frequents open woodened environments and reforestation, above all near the edges of open environments (Lo Valvo et al., 1993).

Reproductive biology:

The laying happens from the end of March to the month of May according to the altitude. It lays about 8 and 16 eggs, incubated by the hen for 24-26 days. The chicks born with a plumy cover, and they abandon their nest after birth.

Diet:

Some researches carried out in the Sicilian land and whom subject was the nourishment of Sicilian Rock Partridge (Lo Valvo et al., 1993) showed that they prevalently eat herbaceous essences, leaves, flowers, fruits, bulbs, seeds and plant inflorescences, above all pertaining to Asteraceae, Leguminosae, Graminaceae, Umbelliferae, Smilacaceae, Convolvulaceae and Rosaceae. During the summer also Artropodi (Hymenoptera Formicidae, Coleoptera, Mantoidea and Orthoptera).

Popolation:

It doesn't exist recent data about the population density in Sicily, as well as in the specific area of our project. The last data about population density in Sicily regard the begin of the 1990: the
density was about 1.500 breeding pairs (Lo Valvo et al., 1993). The population of the Sicilian Rock Partridge is still present in some areas within the SPA. It is not known the exact number of breeding pairs, but there is at least a fifteen of pairs. Therefore, the project's goal is a restocking of the SPA through the measures of environmental improvement and recovery of genetic variability through the release of animals born in captivity by pairs coming from other places in Sicily and genetic testing to verify the belonging to the Sicilian taxon.
For some years there is not foreseen any program for the restocking of Sicilian Rock Partridge because it does not exist yet the structures for breeding this taxon in captivity. Lately the Sicilian Region has successfully verified the capacity of breeding some couples in captivity and adaptive capacity of some young Sicilian Rock Partridge born in captivity and released into the nature.