A staple of our Uruguayan mixed bag is commonly known as the “perdiz”
Unlike large industrialized countries such as the US, South American game management and scientific study is limited due to resource restriction. As such, if you were to do an internet search, the available data is very limited on this king of the gamebirds. Based on the same and my personal experience, I hope to provide some insight into this wonderful creature.
According to Wikipedia, Uruguayan perdiz’s taxonomic identification is known as the “northura masculosa” or “spotted nothura” of the tinamidae family. They are also a branch of the ratite family, which are largely flightless. I can sense that you have visions of dodo birds in your mind, but think “ostrich.” Interestingly, if you look at a picture of their head, a perdiz’s head structure is exactly the same as an ostrich or emu. When we hunt perdiz, it is very common to see the flightless, non-game cousin of the perdiz, the “neandu”, which is about a ¾ size native ostrich. But, these little bundles of joy are anything but flightless, rivaling the best of any wild bobwhite you have ever hunted.
Perdiz are nine to ten inches in length and I would put their body size on par with a chukar. They love old improved pasture and subsist on plant seeds and other animal matter. They do not migrate, but are very territorial. Unlike US quail, they don’t covey as a rule and are generally singles when hunting, although occasionally one or two more may rise in close proximity.
Prediz are constantly on the move foraging and are extremely fast runners. Our first-time clients are amazed at our dog work and our dogs may creep along as much as 100 yards before they make a steady point. If only I had a dollar for every time a client has exclaims, “I’ve never seen a dog with a nose that good!”. The truth of the matter is that perdiz sense the dog and hunters and they quickly evade the same until such time they make up their mind to sit put. I’m still am amazed at how well a perdiz can camouflage with its environment. Many times I’ve hunted fresh wheat fields several inches tall and rarely will you see them until they fly.
As we know, hunting in the US continues to come under fire. For those of us who hunt, we know that we are the true conservationists and that our efforts ensure the sustainable future of game species, but we know this is a hard sell. Of stark contrast, due to the lack of government oversight, the outfitter community in Uruguay are the true conservationist in managing the perdiz populations. We all conduct seasonal bird counts of perdiz and do so for each hunt. If a particular area has poor bird counts, we will rest the same until such time bird numbers rebound. Within our ranch, we conduct further habitat enhancement, including improved pasture rotation and leaving feeder strips from our soy harvest. As with all ground-based gamebirds, severe drought can reduce available native food and cause population declines. In such cases, we restrict harvest limits and allow a proper rebound.
All US wing shooters are keenly aware of the sharp decline of wild bobwhite quail, for a host of reasons. Fortunately, perdiz don’t have the same complications from predation. Fox were introduced to Uruguay to alleviate the large numbers of introduced European hares; however, Uruguay’s vase open plains and fields make it tough going for foxes to get the upper hand. More than likely, Uruguay’s various avian predators are the primary foe of perdiz, but perdiz numbers are too significant to be overwhelmed.
Perhaps perdiz greatest advantage is their reproduction rate. A female reached sexual maturity within two months and can have as much as 6 broods per year, with the make providing incubation. Nesting habitat is excellent throughout rural Uruguay and generally unfractured, which is a great contributor to sustainability of the species. As a result of the natural factors and the efforts of us outfitters, I’m proud of the fact that the International Union for Conservation of Nature ranks Uruguayan perdiz as “least concern”. I remain confident that we will have strong perdiz populations for the foreseeable future.
We will discuss hunting techniques for perdiz in a later edition, but for the uninitiated, the question is “how does perdiz taste?”. Well, like chicken of course! No really, perdiz is a very flavorful white meat that our executive chef prepares in many variations. Most commonly is thin the breast, bread them and fry them, similar to southern fried chicken. One of my favorites in perdiz soup, which is similar to Mexican chicken soup. Of course, we prepare all perdiz harvested, we only hope our clients can make the shot on the super-fast pocket rocket! Keep your barrels safe and we will see you soon!