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Black Grouse

Last updated: 18 January 2011

Black grouse have been declining in range and number across Europe since the mid 19th century. Without conservation efforts by the Welsh Black Grouse Recovery Project, this distinctive bird could have been lost from Wales for good.

In the UK, black grouse are now restricted to the uplands of Wales, Scotland and northwest England. These distinctive birds are found on farmland and moorland with forestry plantations or scattered trees nearby.

Wales is one of only three countries in the world where black grouse have been increasing in number in recent years. In 1997 there were only 123 birds, but that number has climbed steadily, reaching a plateau of around 200.

Female black grouse, or 'greyhens' have brown feathers and are well camouflaged against their surroundings. In contrast, the males, or 'blackcocks', need to stand out rather than blend in, in order to win the affections of the females. They have glossy black feathers and a red wattle over each eye.

During the breeding season, from the end of March to early June, the males gather to perform a display, or lek. They flash their white tail feathers and make a bubbling call in a bid to impress the watching hens.

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