This is Scotland’s more common woodland grouse species. Males have blue/black plumage, with a distinctive red “eyebrow’ wattle and white down each wing as they fly. They are more conspicuous than the predominantly brown/grey camouflaged hen. Another name for the female is greyhen, the male being a blackcock.
During the mating season in spring, the males display on the breeding ground, or ‘lek’, at dawn. They raise their curved outer lyrate tail feathers and hunch forward to make a distinctive burbling call.
The best time of year to see this bird in larger numbers is during the breeding season in spring, when males are ‘lekking’ on a clear area along a woodland edge. Up to ten males may be seen at one time and females visit the lek site to choose a male to mate with. When larch trees have their first flush of growth, black grouse are sometimes seen feeding on the fresh needles. Birch catkins are also a very attractive food to them.
Resident all the year round and found throughout Scotland, this is a bird of the woodland and moorland edge, but can be seen on farmland bordering woodland. Males are much more visible than females at a distance. The Cairngorms National Park is a particularly good area to see black grouse.
This bird has declined in areas of intensive agriculture, but has responded well to sympathetic woodland and farmland management on a number of traditional estates and where deer numbers have been reduced in areas of the National Forest. Chick survival rates are predominantly affected over the critical first few weeks after hatching, because of deaths caused by wetter early summer periods due to climate change.
Lagopus lagopus scoticus
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