The melanistic variety of Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa was described from a small population in western France around the 1850s. In this region, the Red-legged Partridge population as a whole was hunted, but melanistic individuals were targeted for both private and museum bird collections, and by 1865 the variety was extinct in western France. An extensive search for extant specimens documented 13 melanistic birds in six museums, and their details are presented here. Remarkably, some of these specimens were collected in areas elsewhere in France or even in other countries. After 1915, the allele for melanism appears to have been lost within the Red-legged Partridge population as a whole, and we discuss possible reasons for this.
‘…, nous sommes persuadé que cette perdrix qui tend à demeurer en Anjou [now Maine-et-Loire] se multipliera dans quelques années, au grand contentement des amateurs de la chasse et de l'ornithologie.’ […, we are persuaded that this partridge which tends to remain in Anjou will multiply in a few years, to the great satisfaction of the amateurs of hunting and ornithology.] (de Soland 1861: 146).