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Great news - Black Grouse numbers rise in Scotland.

Black Grouse were once widespread across the UK but have suffered steady declines and range contractions over the past 40 years, with populations falling from an estimated 25,000 displaying males in 1970 to just over 5,000 in 2005.

Surveys across Black Grouse strongholds of Dumfries and Galloway, Deeside and Speyside revealed a rise in numbers on the previous year. Good weather in 2010 resulted in a very productive breeding season for Black Grouse across Scotland, and even the severely threatened populations in the south bred well.

The Black Grouse - Tetrao tetrix - is a large bird in the grouse family. It is a sedentary species breeding across northern Europe and Asia.


The cock is very distinctive, with black plumage, apart from red wattles and a white wingbar, and a lyre-shaped tail, which appears forked in flight. The female is greyish-brown.


The males song is loud, bubbling and somewhat dove-like. The female has a cackling call.


Buds, shoots, catkins and berries.


Black grouse have a very distinctive and well recorded courtship ritual or game. At dawn in the spring, the males strut around in a traditional area and display whilst making a highly distinctive mating call. This process is called a Lek - the grouse are said to be lekking. In western Europe these gatherings seldom involve more than 40 birds. However in Russia 150 is not uncommon and 200 have been recorded. The cocks compete with each other for best display sites within the lek, with dominant individuals occupying central sites. The bubbling calls and the posturing of the cocks attract hens, who choose their mate. The dominant males in the central part of the lek obtain most of the copulations.

There is no pair bond between the two sexes, and males have no part in the nesting process or rearing of young.

The nest, a shallow scrape lined with grasses and moss, is made on the ground in the shelter of tall vegetation or low scrub. The 6-11 pale ochre or buff eggs spotted with brown are laid at intervals of 36-48hrs in late April. The female incubates the eggs for 25-27 days starting with the last egg. The young hatch together and leave the nest as soon as they are dry. 

The female feeds the young on their first day, but from the second day onwards they are capable of feeding themselves. The young are capable of flight already at 10-14 days old. The female broods them for the first 10 days, and they are independent at about three months.

Broods remain together well into the autumn, and several families often join together to form small flocks.

Conservation Status – Least Concern

Although this species is declining in western Europe and the UK, it is not considered to be vulnerable due to the large population. The global estimate is 15-40 million birds. Its decline is due to loss of habitat, disturbance, predation by foxes and crows.


Ask Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures to create a tour for you to see these striking birds.

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