Scientific name: Lagopus lagopus
Status: Resident breeding species
Breeding birds: 230,000 pairs
Conservation status: Amber
Length: 35 – 44 cm
Wingspan: 55 – 66 cm
Weight: 535 – 700 g
Red grouse are plump and males have reddish-brown plumage with pale edged feathers. The head and neck are rush coloured with fleshy red eye combs which are more prominent during breeding season. During winter there are conspicuous white streaks and marks on the underparts.
Red grouse have white feathers on their legs and feet. Their tails are short and black and they have dark eyes surrounded by a white eyering. They have black bills which are slightly hooked at the tip.
Female red grouse are similar to the male but are duller and browner. She has smaller eye combs which disappear during winter. Juveniles are duller still and lack the eye combs.
Red grouse build their nests on the ground concealed in thick bush and covered with vegetation.
Red grouse lay 6-9 eggs which are pale cream with dark markings. The male guards the nest while the females incubate the eggs for 3 weeks. Chicks fledge 13 days after hatching but are fed by the parents for 6 weeks.
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.
Where to see them
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.
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.