Red Grouse

Red Grouse

Key facts

Scientific name: Lagopus lagopus
Status: Resident breeding species

Breeding birds: 230,000 pairs

Conservation status: Amber

Family: Grouse

Length: 35 – 44 cm
Wingspan: 55 – 66 cm
Weight: 535 – 700 g
Typical lifespan: 2 years

What do red grouse look like?

Male red grouse have reddish-brown plumage overall with pale edged feathers and darker barring. On the upperwing, the flight feathers are dark brown to black and on the underwing the coverts are white with black markings. The underparts have white streaks and spots which are more conspicuous during winter, and the short tail is black.

The head, neck, and upper breast are more rust coloured with dark grey lores and fleshy red eye combs which are more prominent during breeding season and displays. The eyes are dark with a white eye-ring, the bill is black with a slight hook at the tip, and the legs and feet are covered in white feathers.

Female red grouse are similar to males but are duller and browner with more cryptic plumage. The eye combs are smaller and disappear altogether in the winter.

Juveniles are duller still and lack the red eye combs.

How do red grouse breed?

Red grouse are monogamous and breed between April and May. They produce 1 brood a season. They build their nests in forests, or heather moorland and heathland. It is a shallow scrape in the ground concealed in thick bush and covered with vegetation and lined with grass, moss, and heather, and constructed by the female alone.

Red grouse lay 6-9 pale cream or pink eggs with darker markings and a mottled rusty wash which are incubated by the female for 19-26 days while the male guards the nest. Chicks have pale buffy underparts and brown cryptic upperparts, with a chestnut crown and black line on each side.

They are able to fly 13 days after hatching but are fed by their parents for 6 weeks. They reach sexual maturity at one year.

What do red grouse eat?

Red grouse eat shoots of heather, seeds, berries and some insects during the nesting season. During winter they can retrieve food from underneath snow. Heather is particularly important for its nutritional value and a diet rich in heather will mean better breeding success leading to a high population density.

Red Grouse

Where can I see red grouse ?

Red grouse can be seen all year round in the uplands of the north and west. On heather moors they are easily spotted as they take off from the ground quickly when disturbed.

What do red grouse sound like?

Patrik Åberg/xeno-canto

Did you know?

The red grouse is the emblem of the Scotch whisky The Famous Grouse which is well known for its Christmas TV advertising campaigns.

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