Black grouse Tetrao tetrix, adult male on lek. Corrimony RSPB reserve. Scotland.

Population trends

The black grouse population in Europe has been declining steadily since the latter half of the 19th century.

Regional rarity

Since 1970 there have been several regional extinctions, including the heathland population in southern Sweden. In many other countries, including Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium, they are down to the last few pairs. In most of central and western Europe the black grouse is now very rare or extinct. Significant populations are still present in the Alps, but even these are under threat from disturbance, agriculture and forestry. In the main stronghold of boreal Scandinavia and Russia the black grouse populations have mixed fortunes. The numbers are stable or increasing in Norway and Sweden, but declining in Finland and Russia.

Black grouse Tetrao tetrix, adult male on lek. Corrimony RSPB reserve. Scotland.

Shrinking range

The range of black grouse in Britain has reduced dramatically this century. 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, and the range and numbers are declining constantly in the rest of the country.

Black grouse range contracted by 28 per cent between 1970 and 1990, and there has been a catastrophic drop in numbers over the last 20 years - the birds are now disappearing at rates of between 10 per cent and 40 per cent each year in some areas. In many areas the declines are associated with a major reduction in chick survival since 1950, though adult survival and other factors are crucial in some parts of the range.

Today, the entire population is in decline, except in Sweden, where specific conservation measures have been applied.

Black Grouse