Black Grouse

Key Facts

  • Spring display sites known as leks
  • Males display with mock fights to impress females
  • Nest in hollows on ground
Scientific Name: Lyrurus tetrix
Number in Britain: 4,850 displaying males
Conservation Status:
in UK Red
in Europe Least Concern
Globally Least Concern

The second-largest member of the grouse family in the country this bird was once very common indeed being found from the heaths in the south of England to the north of Scotland. It is now in serious trouble mainly due to loss of habitat through afforestation and pressures on heathland.

We have worked very hard not only to maintain the Black grouse on our two sites but to enhance the population through the improvement of habitat, both for adults, but also for chicks. Work by the GWCT has shown that predation is an important factor in the success of this bird and we carry out legal control of predators which would impact this species and others.

The Black Grouse is a large bird, some 21 inches long for a male and the female is rather smaller at 16 inches or so. Colouration is very different. The male is glossy blue/black with a white underside to the lyre-shaped tail. The female is pale brown heavily barred with chestnut brown to black markings.

The nest on the ground is a well-concealed grass-lined cup containing 8/10 buff coloured eggs lightly spotted with black. The female cares for the young on her own as the males are polygamous.

The most notable feature of this bird is the mating display called a “Lek” from the Norse to “lake” which is to play. The males take part in an elaborate display where they fan their tail, strutting around making a whole range of loud bubbling calls which can be heard for some distance on a quiet spring morning.