Red grouse

This is the most common grouse, a plump medium sized bird with a short tail, rich chestnut brown plumage and white-feathered legs.  Males can be identified by a red eyebrow wattle which is very apparent when they call during the breeding season. The wattle is less obvious in other seasons, when both sexes look similar to each other. Often flies low along the contours with fast wing beats and glides with wings curved down.

Resident throughout the year, male red grouse can be heard calling at the start of the breeding season in late April, with their distinctive “go, go, Go-away” call. They pair for the season and both adults can be seen attending chicks in June.  Avoid grouse habitat between August and September, when most grouse shooting takes place.

They are usually found on heather moorland at an altitude of between 350-700m. Their habitat is rigorously managed by muirburn, a controlled burning, to encourage regeneration of heather. The variegated strips of heather are visible at a great distance. Look out for lines of shooting butts, like dug outs, which indicate an active grouse moor.

The management of habitat to maintain this species as a game bird in the uplands of Scotland shapes much of the landscape by preventing the natural succession from moorland to forest, but benefiting other moorland species. The income from grouse shooting is a significant part of the economy of many estates which brings them into potential conflict with birds of prey such as hen harrier and golden eagle.

Black grouse

Black grouse

Tetrao tetrix

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. Anot...

Capercaillie

Capercaillie

Tetrao urogallus

Scotland’s largest and rarest grouse species; the male is larger and, at a distance is conspicuous as it appears black. When seen more closely there are shades of dark blue on the throat and chest; green on the wings and brown on the back; the tail h...

Ptarmigan

Ptarmigan

Lagopus mutus

The ptarmigan is a plump gamebird, slightly larger than a grey partridge. In summer, is a mixture of grey, brown and black above with white bellies and wings. In winter, it becomes totally white except for its tail and eye-patch, which remain black. It...