Grouse species in Europe


Scientific name: Bonasa bonasia Linnaeus 1758
Common names: Hazel grouse English
Gelinotte des bois French
Haselhuhn German

female male

Conservation Status
IUCN 2003 ( Lower risk (near threatened).
EU Birds Directive: Annex I

Eurasia. Boreal, montane, and temperate forests from France and Scandinavia east to Japan. The northern limit of the range coincides with the edge of the taiga forest; the northernmost populations are in Lapland and Siberia. The southern limit of the species mostly parallels the southern border of the boreal forest; in central Europe the hazel grouse also occurs in deciduous temperate forests and montane forests south of the boreal zone.

Population Size and Trend in Europe
In the boreal forest the hazel grouse still occupies most of its historical range and is generally common. In western and central Europe major declines and range contractions have occurred during the past century and already before; most remaining populations are restricted to mountainous areas; many are scattered and small.

Habitat and Ecology
Hazel grouse inhabit mostly mixed coniferous-deciduous forests. They show fairly narrow requirements for habitat structure; availability of relatively dense coniferous or deciduous cover from the ground to about 2 m in height seems to be critical. Hazel grouse are found in a wide variety of habitat types that provide this structural requirement; old growth as well as managed deciduous or coniferous forests of different harvest regimes and successional stages. During snow, hazel grouse feed on catkins and buds of deciduous trees such as Alnus, Betula, Corylus, Sorbus, Fagus, and Chosenia. Close interspersion of feeding trees and cover is crucial. In snowfree times, the birds feed on a variety of shrubs, herbs, and grasses. Hazel grouse avoid open areas and seem to be particularly vulnerable to forest fragmentation (see Swenson 1991, 1995, Åberg 1996, Bergmann et al. 1996).

Hunting and Cultural Importance
The hazel grouse is a popular game species throughout most of its range. European hunters mostly attract the birds by imitating their calls with special grouse whistles in spring and autumn. This kind of hunting is still practised in Scandinavia and Russia. In the boreal zone, however, hazel grouse are more commonly hunted with pointing dogs in autumn. Hazel grouse hunting no longer plays any economic role in central Europe. Only a few birds are taken and hunting is banned in several countries. In part of the boreal region, hazel grouse shooting remains economically important.

Principal Threats
  • Habitat degradation. Habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation related to changes in human land use or silvicultural practices are the most important threats to the hazel grouse. A loss of a dense understorey in industrial forests (central, southern Europe; Fennoscandia), and clearcutting (boreal forest) may result in declining hazel grouse numbers.
  • Predation. In parts of Europe, increasing numbers of generalist predators and wild boar are believed to result in reduced survival and nesting success.

[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.]