Dugg’s a partridge in a Binham family tree

When Dugg the partridge was abandoned by his mother this summer, his future looked bleak as he toddled through a Norfolk village trying to find a friendly face.

But when the chick stumbled into the path of the Marsh family, his luck changed and, thanks to their commitment to catching crickets by hand and keeping him warm, he survived.

And while they may not have a pear tree for him to perch in, the partridge is enjoying being part of their family tree as he celebrates his first Christmas.

The bird first appeared during a community archaeological dig in Binham, near Holt, on July 31. Wendy Marsh, who was taking part with husband Andrew and teenage daughters Helena, 16, and Laura, 13, said: 'We had dug about half of our 1m hole and were having a few minutes' rest. Then this little ball of fluff came toddling out of the field and nearly fell in our hole. We took pity on him.'

After looking for his mother for two days, the family realised it would be up to them to care for the red-legged partridge that had sought them out.

They began catching crickets, bought mealworms and hand-reared the chick, wrapping him in a blanket at night and putting him on an instant heat pad to keep him warm.

Mrs Marsh, 38, said: 'We thought 'if we get him over the first night, it's a plus'. Then we got him through the second and third night and thought 'we're doing well here'.'

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Dugg stayed inside the house for the first couple of months before heading outdoors to the family garden where he has a hutch to sleep in and quails to keep him company.

He soon became a celebrity in the village and is set to become the local history group's mascot.

His adoptive mother, who occasionally works as a teaching assistant at the local school, said: 'When he was a baby, he had to go everywhere with us because we had to feed him on a regular basis so he loved going in the car. He has been to the doctors, dentist, supermarket, school and just about everywhere you can think of.'

Since then, the partridge has stunned his new family with his natural instincts, including learning to fly without any tutelage from a mother. He has come through his 'ugly duckling stage' and now developed his adult feathers.

But rather than growing up and flying the nest, Dugg has chosen to remain with the family. Mrs Marsh said: 'He flutters around and has landed on the roof a couple of times. He's got the opportunity to go, but he's happy and content. He's got no interest in disappearing.'

On December 25 – the first day of Christmas – Dugg will be brought inside for a catch up and is likely to get a few presents.

And although the family does not have the much-sung-about pear tree for him to sit in, Mrs Marsh does not think he will mind, since he prefers to be indoors than out.

She said: 'He still thinks he's human. He doesn't see himself as a bird. He loves people and being with them. I can almost see the frown on his face when he's outside. When he does come in for a cuddle, you can almost see the smile as if he's thinking 'yes, I'm inside'.'