Of the partridge The partridge gets its name from the sound it makes. It is a cunning and unclean bird. For one male mounts another and in their reckless lust they forget their sex. The partridge is so deceitful that one will steal another’s eggs. But the trick does not work. For when the young hear the cry of their real mother, their natural instinct is to leave the bird that is brooding them and return to the mother who produced them.
The Devil imitates their example, trying to rob the eternal Creator of those he has created; if he succeeds somehow in bringing together men who are foolish and lack any sense of their own inner strength, he cossets them with seductive pleasures of the flesh. But when they have heard the voice of Christ, growing spiritual wings, they wisely fly away and entrust themselves to Christ.
The nests built by partridges are skilfully fortified. For they cover their hiding-place with thorny bushes so that animals attacking them are kept at bay by the prickly branches. The partridge uses dust to cover its eggs and returns secretly to the place, which it has marked. Frequent intercourse tires it. The females often carry their young in order to deceive the males, who frequently attack the chicks, all the more impatiently when the chicks fawn on them. The males fight over their choice of mate, and believe they can use the losers for sex in place of the females. The latter are so affected by lust, that if the wind blows towards them from the males, they become pregnant by the males’ scent. Then, if any man approaches the place where the patridge is brooding, the mothers come out and deliberately show themselves to them; pretending that their feet or wings are injured, they put on a show of moving slowly, as if they could be caught in no time; by this trick they act as decoys to the approaching men and fool them into moving far away from the nest.
The young are not slow, either, to watch out for themselves. When they sense that they have been seen, they lie on their backs holding up small clods of earth in their claws, camouflaging themselves so skilfully, that they lie hidden from detection.
A partridge seems to be an unlikely symbol of unbridled lust. Those birds were a common dish on medieval tables; I wonder if all the lustiness was also assigned to eating them.