Grouse species in Europe


Scientific name: Tetrao tetrix Linnaeus 1758
Common names: Black grouse English
Tétras-lyre, Petit coq de bruyère French
Birkhuhn, Spielhahn German

female male

Conservation Status
IUCN 2003 ( Lower risk (near threatened).
EU Birds Directive: Annex I, Annex II/2, Annex III/2


Northern Eurasia. Continuous distribution in the boreal forest from Scandinavia to south-eastern Siberia; the western and southern parts of the range are fragmented; here, major range contractions and declines have occurred during the 20th century.

Population Size and Trend in Europe
Population densities may strongly fluctuate, particularly in the northern parts of the range where 4-10 year population cycles are common. Except for these short-term fluctuations, black grouse populations are more or less stable throughout the contiguous range, and are not particularly endangered. In western and central Europe, black grouse numbers have been declining rapidly during this century, and particularly since the 1970s. Many lowland populations have disappeared, and the remaining ones are mostly small (<100-200 birds) and isolated. In central Europe, the largest and still mostly stable population is found in the Alps.

Habitat and Ecology
The black grouse is one of the grouse species with the broadest habitat requirements. In the boreal regions, the black grouse is a bird of forest edge habitats and of early stages of forest succession. Outside the boreal forest, black grouse are found in structurally similar habitats such as moorland and heaths, young and open regenerating conifer forests after disturbances such as fire, storm, or clearcutting, treeline habitats and alpine pastures in mountainous areas, as well as fields and meadows, and military training grounds. Black grouse generally avoid closed tree cover. The birds feed opportunistically but selectively on a variety of food items.

Hunting and Cultural Importance
Throughout most of its range, the black grouse has a long history as a game bird, and therefore is of great cultural, and at least regionally, economic importance. After willow ptarmigan and hazel grouse, it is the most numerous grouse species in the bag of Fennoscandian and Russian hunters.

Principal Threats

  • Habitat degradation. In western and central Europe, habitat loss due to changes in human land-use, and particularly the intensification of agriculture. Drainage and destruction of moorland, fertilisation or afforestation of heathland and sheep pastures, and the declining use and maintenance of alpine summer pastures by grazing and mowing are also common causes of the deterioration of black grouse habitats.
  • Small population size. In western and central Europe, deterioration and fragmentation of habitats have resulted in isolated populations, many of which are now threatened by small size.
  • Increased predation due to fragmentation
  • Human disturbance by Tourism and leisure activities
  • Collisions with wires and fences

[Storch, I. (2000): Grouse Status Survey and Conservation Action
Plan 2000 - 2004. WPA/BirdLife/SSC Grouse Specialist Group. IUCN,
Gland. Switzerland and Cambridge, UK and the World Pheasant
Association, Reading, UK., 112.]