The black grouse is a large gamebird about the same size as a female pheasant. Males are unmistakable black birds with a fan tail and white wing-bars. Females are smaller, grey-brown with an intricate pattern of black barring, and they have notched tails. Males have a lyre-shaped tail which they raise and fan out in display.
In late spring, male black grouse display their tails in competitive groups to attract a mate.These displays are known as ‘leks’ and males will gather at traditional sites and display to gain dominance and win over females which watch from the surrounding vegetation. Between six and eleven eggs are laid in May in a concealed, moss-lined scrape in the ground; the chicks are independent after about three months.
- Length: 40-56cm
- Weight: 900-1,200g
- Average Lifespan: 5 years
Classified in the UK as a Red List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review and as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
Found on uplands in the north of England, North Wales and Scotland.
When to see
January – December
- The black grouse has a varied diet; the young feed entirely on invertebrates but adults eat the buds and shoots of bilberries and heather.
- Although the black grouse population is still in decline across the UK, there is some evidence that the population in areas such as Highland Perthshire bounced back, thanks in part to a proramme of native tree planting.