Wales Black Grouse Recovery Project

The project helped restore the diversity of mixed land use of moor edge, rough grazing and woodland in the uplands of Wales supporting a black grouse population

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


The Welsh Black Grouse Recovery Project was started to arrest the serious decline of black grouse in Wales, which if left unchecked could have led to their extinction in 10 to 15 years. The Project integrated a comprehensive suite of habitat prescriptions, tailored initially to six key areas in mid and north Wales.
These original six key areas were based mainly on the presence of suitable habitat and known distribution of male black grouse comprised from the results of the 1997 Welsh black grouse survey. These became the original project core area and comprised 80 per cent of the remaining black grouse population in Wales.
Using management recommendations from existing research, the project targeted land within a 1.5 km radius of 18 focal leks ( containing greatest number of males) which were situated within forestry, open moor land and semi-improved grass land all within 100-500m of the forest edge. In 2002 the number of key areas was increased to twelve to include all sites with black grouse present. 


  • Arrest the decline of black grouse
  • To increase the range and number of black grouse
  • To raise the profile of black grouse and there needs with training days, publications, seminars and newsletters
  • To raise awareness on management measures to reverse the decline
  • To undertake annual surveys of black grouse within key areas


  • 1997: All Wales Survey had 216 males.
  • June 1999: The Welsh Black Grouse Recovery Project was started
  • 1999-2001: The project was funded by the European Union, the National assembly for Wales, RSPB, Countryside Council for Wales and Forest Enterprise Cymru
  • 2002: number of key areas was increased from six to twelve to encompass all areas inhabited by black grouse
  • 2003-2006: the project was boosted by A second phase of similar funding and additional funding from the Hiraethog project
  • 2003: All Wales Survey had highest number of males recorded during the project at 243 birds
  • 2005: All Wales Survey had a total of 211 males
  • 2006-2009: funding has come from the Countryside Council for Wales, Welsh Assembly Government, the RSPB, Denbighshire Countryside services, Heather and Hillforts project ( Denbighshire ) and Forestry Commission Wales


Planned Work

The project is currently working closely with CCW and Forestry Commission Wales (Cymru), to develop agri-environment, SSSI and woodland management schemes. Landowners and managers with estates/farms that lie adjacent to or within the current range of black grouse can contact the project officer who can then offer a free site assessment, advise on how best to manage the land for black grouse and who to approach for the correct grants. The project also runs training and information days and continues to monitor the fortunes of black grouse in Wales.


Searches of all leks within the black grouse key areas were undertaken in each year of the project except in 2001. A full census of lekking males in 2002, using the same method as earlier censuses, was used to measure the population size and range and to assess whether targeted habitat management had been beneficial, the same process was again undertaken in 2005. The 2002 key area lek counts recorded 206 males, suggesting a population increase of 87 per cent over 1997 (114 males).
Across the whole of Wales, the 2002 census estimated that there were 243 lekking males, 85 per cent more than in 1997 (131 males) and only 8 per cent fewer than in 1986 (264 males). The increase was restricted to areas where advice was given and management work was undertaken. The 2005 all Wales census estimated that there were 211 lekking males, 61 per cent more than in 1997 but a 13 per cent decrease since the 2002 census.
Since then in 2006 the numbers declined further to 189 but picked up again in 2007 to 211 more than likely due to a reprioritized management program returning to managing the very core areas for black grouse. However, elsewhere, the numbers of black grouse have continued to fall and the range has contracted further, so there is still a long way to go before the black grouse population in Wales is sustainable.


European Union, Welsh Assembly Government, Countryside Council for Wales, Forestry Commission Wales, Denbighshire Countryside Services, Hiraethog Project, and Heather and Hillforts project


European Union, Welsh Assembly Government, Countryside Council for Wales, Forestry Commission Wales, Denbighshire Countryside Services, Hiraethog Project, and Heather and Hillforts project.


Coast on a stormy day

Chris Mellenchip

Black Grouse Officer, RSPB

Further reading

Tagged with: Country: Wales Habitat: Grassland Habitat: Heathland Habitat: Upland Habitat: Woodland Species: Black grouse Project status: Project types: Advocacy Project types: Site protection