Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix)
The Black Grouse T. tetrix is typically regarded as a bird of early successional forest, either coniferous or birch, and of forest-edge habitats. Following large scale reductions in the extent of natural forests, T. tetrix are now found in structurally similar habitats, such as mosaics of moorland and heathland, early stages of coniferous plantations, rough grazings and traditionally managed meadows. They are well known for the early morning displays of the male (a selection of images above). At first light they gather at clearings known as leks, where they display to attract a female by strutting with their tails spread wide, their heads held low and their bubbling calls and posturing. Leks are visited all year round but the peak of activity occurs during the spring when the females attend and mate with the males. The most dominant males hold the best positions at the lek and mate with most females. As dawn breaks and the sun rises above the beautiful moorland habitat, the sights and sounds of lekking T. tetrix is an experience that is rarely forgotten.
Unfortunately, during the last century, they have been declining throughout virtually all of their European range. In Britain, the decline has been considerable over the last 150 years and the species is now mostly confined to Scotland and northeastern England, with a small number still resident in Wales. They used to be common throughout southern and central England from Lincolnshire and Norfolk to Hampshire and Cornwall. By the late 1960s they had disappeared from all of the southern part of their range. They are currently disappearing at rates of between 10% and 40% a year in some areas. T. tetrix is listed on the UK Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern (December 2015), and is a priority species for which a UK Biodiversity Action Plan has been produced. It is therefore vital we take our responsibilities seriously to avoid harming these wonderful upland birds.