Black Grouse

Lyrurus tetrix (Linnaeus, 1758) BK BLAGR 3320
Family: Galliformes > Phasianidae

Black Grouse, Sarah Kelman

A grouse of moorland and forest edge, the Black Grouse is best known for its spring-time gatherings, called 'leks', where the males gather to compete for females.

Males are jet black with long curved tail feathers. They have a slim white stripe in the wing and white feathers under the tail. Females are cryptically camouflaged with finely barred brown and black plumage.

Black Grouse favour moorland habitats that are near to woodland, and the species initially benefited from the planting of commercial forestry plantations following the Second World War. Now these plantations have matured they have become unsuitable for the species. Changes in land management have taken a toll on the population in modern times.


Black Grouse identification is usually straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Black Grouse.

related video

Identifying Grouse

Grouse are classic birds of upland and wild habitats. Males are relatively easy to separate but females and distant birds can be much more difficult. Using plumage, habitat and habit clues we can tell them apart, however. Let this video help you confidently tell Red Grouse, Ptarmigan, Black Grouse and Capercaillie apart.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Black Grouse, provided by xeno-canto contributors.


Flight call



Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



The Black Grouse was once common across the UK but has been in long-term decline and it is now restricted to upland areas of Britain, with the latest estimate putting the population at 4,850 pairs (APEP4). Recent surveys show a significant decline occurred in Scotland between 1995–96 and 2005; Numbers rose in Wales over the same period; however, the Welsh birds make up only 4% of the UK population (Sim et al. 2008). A slight population recovery has occurred in northernEngland between 1998 and 2006 (Warrne & Baines 2008).


The Black Grouse is a resident species found in upland areas of Britain, where it favours a mix of moorland fringes, marginal farmland and woodland edge.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Black Grouse have been lost from many areas of Wales, parts of northern England, southern and central Scotland. A local extinction on Islay is particularly notable. The population in the Peak District became extinct in 2000

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Black Grouse are recorded throughout the year, especially in spring when lekking.

Weekly occurence of Black Grouse from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.


Lifecycle and body size information about Black Grouse, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Coileach-dubh
Welsh: Grugiar Ddu
Catalan: gall de cua forcada
Czech: tetrívek obecný
Danish: Urfugl
Dutch: Korhoen
Estonian: teder
Finnish: teeri
French: Tétras lyre
German: Birkhuhn
Hungarian: nyírfajd
Icelandic: Orri
Italian: Fagiano di monte
Latvian: rubenis
Lithuanian: eurazinis tetervinas
Norwegian: Orrfugl
Polish: cietrzew (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: tetraz-lira
Slovak: tetrov holniak
Slovenian: ruševec
Spanish: Gallo lira común
Swedish: orre
Folkname: Blackcock (m) Grey Hen (f)


Interpretation and scientific publications about Black Grouse from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

It is believed that habitat and land-use changes have been the main factor responsible to the long-term declines of this species (Sim et al. 2008). A study looking at a core Scottish population in Perthshire found that main driver of change was maturation of forest, which accounted fro 58–78% of the decline within the study area (Pearce-Higgins et al. 2007). Other possible drivers of change include changes in sheep grazing rates which may affect habitat quality (Calladine et al. 2002), and predation levels (Summers et al. 2004). Recent increases in Wales may be due to targeted habitat management (Lindley et al. 2003), whilst recent increases in England were attributed to habitat management, fence marking and reduced levels of sheep grazing on moor fringe habitats (Warren & Baines 2008). Increases in a population in Scotland were attributed to the creation of young non-native woodland and were greatest where non-native woodland plots were c5 years old and made up around 30% of land area, but declines occurred in plots aged more than 20 years (Scridel et al. 2017).


Peer-reviewed papers

The role of habitat change in driving Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix population declines across Scotland

2016 | Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Wright, L.J., Grant, M.C. & Douglas, D.J.T.Bird Study

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