Black grouse

The black grouse or blackgame or blackcock (Tetrao tetrix) is a large game bird in the grouse family. It is a sedentary species, breeding across northern Eurasia in moorland and bog areas near to woodland, mostly boreal. The black grouse is closely related to the Caucasian grouse.

The female is greyish-brown and has a cackling call. She takes all responsibility for nesting and caring for the chicks, as is typical with gamebirds.

The black grouse's genome was sequenced in 2014.[4]

Bird recorded in Fife, Scotland

Taxonomy and naming

The black grouse is one of the many species first described in the 10th edition of Systema Naturae in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus, and still bears its original binomial name. Both Tetrao and tetrix come from Ancient Greek words referring to some form of game bird.[5]

The male and female are sometimes referred to by their folk names, blackcock and greyhen respectively. These names first occur in the literature with John Ray in 1674.[6] Heathcock and Heathhen are also common names.[7]

Description

The black grouse is a large bird with males being around 53 centimetres (21 in) long and weighing 1,000–1,450 g (2.20–3.20 lb) and females approximately 40 cm (16 in) and weighing 750–1,110 g (1.65–2.45 lb).[8] The cock is very distinctive, with black plumage, apart from red wattles and a white wingbar, and a lyre-shaped tail, which appears forked in flight. His song is loud, bubbling and somewhat dove-like.[8]

Black grouse cock displaying

Distribution and habitat

Black grouse can be found across Europe (Swiss-Italian-French Alps specially) from Great Britain (but not Ireland) through Scandinavia and Estonia into Russia. In Eastern Europe they can be found in Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Romania and Ukraine. There is a population in the Alps, and isolated remnants in Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.[8] It formerly occurred in Denmark, but the Danish Ornithological Society (DOF) has considered it extinct since 2001. The species disappeared from Bulgaria in the 19th century.[9]

Conservation status

Although this species is declining in western Europe, it is not considered to be vulnerable globally due to the large population (global estimate is 15-40 million individuals) and slow rate of decline.[1] Its decline is due to loss of habitat, disturbance, predation by foxes, crows, etc., and small populations gradually dying out.

The IUCN implemented a Black Grouse Action Plan 2007–2010. This has looked at local populations that are vulnerable to the extinction vortex. For example, in Styria in Austria.

In the United Kingdom black grouse are found in upland areas of Wales, the Pennines and most of Scotland. Best looked for on farmland and moorland with nearby forestry or scattered trees. They have traditional lek sites where the males display.

They have declined in some parts of the UK (especially England), having disappeared from many of their former haunts. They are now extirpated in Lancashire, Derbyshire, Exmoor, East Yorkshire, New Forest, Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire, Quantock Hills, Cornwall, Dartmoor, Kent, Wiltshire and Surrey.

A programme to re-introduce black grouse into the wild started in 2003 in the Upper Derwent Valley area of the Peak District in England. 30 grouse were released in October 2003, followed by 10 male grouse in December 2004 and a further 10 males and 10 females in April 2005. The programme is being run jointly by the National Trust, Severn Trent Water and Peak District National Park.

Conservation groups helping to revive the black grouse include the RSPB and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.

In France there has been much work regarding the birds and their risk of flying into ski-lifts.[10]

Birkhahn

Black grouse cock

Tetrao tetrix from ja

Drawing of Tetrao tetrix

Breeding

Tétras lyre MHNT
Egg of Tetrao tetrix tetrix - MHNT

Black grouse have a very distinctive and well-recorded courtship ritual or game. At dawn in the spring, the males strut around in a traditional area and display whilst making a highly distinctive mating call. This process is called a lek—the grouse are said to be lekking. In western Europe these gatherings seldom involve more than 40 birds; in Russia 150 is not uncommon and 200 have been recorded.[8]

Relationship to humans

The tails of black-cocks have, since late Victorian times, been popular adornments for hats worn with Highland Dress. Most commonly associated with Glengarry and Balmoral or Tam o' Shanter caps, they still continue to be worn by pipers of civilian and military pipe bands. Since 1904, all ranks of the Royal Scots and King's Own Scottish Borderers have worn them in their full-dress headgear and that tradition is carried on in the dress glengarries of the current Scottish super regiment, the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

References

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Lyrurus tetrix". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b BirdLife International and NatureServe (2014) Bird Species Distribution Maps of the World. 2012. Lyrurus tetrix. In: IUCN 2014. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 June 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-27.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link). Downloaded on 02 June 2015.
  3. ^ "Lyrurus tetrix". Avibase.
  4. ^ Wang, B.; Ekblom, R.; Bunikis, I.; Siitari, H.; Höglund, J. (6 March 2014). "Whole genome sequencing of the black grouse (Tetrao tetrix): Reference guided assembly suggests faster-Z and MHC evolution". BMC Genomics. 15: e10000180. doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-180. PMID 24602261.
  5. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 383. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  6. ^ Lockwood, W.B. (1993). The Oxford Dictionary of British Bird Names. OUP. ISBN 978-0-19-866196-2.
  7. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Blackcock" . Encyclopedia Americana.
  8. ^ a b c d The Birds of the Western Palearctic (Abridged ed.). OUP. 1997. ISBN 0-19-854099-X.
  9. ^ Boev, Z. (1997). "The Black Grouse, Tetrao tetrix (L., 1758) (Tetraonidae, Aves), a disappeared species in Bulgaria (Paleolithic and Neolithic records)". Anthropozoologica. 25–26: 643–646.
  10. ^ "Observatoire des galliformes de montagne (Observatory of Mountain Galliformes)" (in French).

External links

Caucasian grouse

The Caucasian grouse (Tetrao mlokosiewiczi) is a large bird in the grouse family. It is closely related to the black grouse (T. tetrix). It occurs in extreme southeastern Europe and adjacent regions. The scientific name of this bird commemorates the Polish naturalist Ludwik Mlokosiewicz.

As with many gamebirds, the cock (male) is larger than the hen (female), measuring 50–55 cm compared to her length of 37–42 cm. The cock is very distinctive, with all-black plumage, apart from red eyebrows, and a long, deeply forked tail. The female Caucasian grouse is grey with dark barring, and has a cackling call.The Caucasian grouse is a sedentary species, breeding in the Caucasus and Pontic Mountains of northeast Turkey on open slopes with low Rhododendron or other scrubs but in proximity to deciduous broad-leaf forest. These bird have a group display or lek in May and June. Unlike the male Eurasian black grouse, the Caucasian grouse display is almost mute but for a thin whistling of the cock fluttering his wings as he leaps and turns in the air, producing a flash of white as the underwing feathers are briefly revealed. The hen lays up to ten eggs in a ground scrape and takes all responsibility for nesting and caring for the chicks, as is typical with gamebirds.

This is perhaps the least-known of all grouse in the world, and it was formerly classified as Data Deficient by the IUCN. Recent research shows that it is declining to some extent, and it is consequently listed as a Near Threatened species in 2008 with an estimated population of 30,203–63,034 worldwide in 2010. Conservation efforts have included encouraging ecotourism as a way to promote awareness of the bird and its habitat.

Game

A game is a structured form of play, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements. However, the distinction is not clear-cut, and many games are also considered to be work (such as professional players of spectator sports or games) or art (such as jigsaw puzzles or games involving an artistic layout such as Mahjong, solitaire, or some video games).

Games are sometimes played purely for entertainment, sometimes for achievement or reward as well. They can be played alone, in teams, or online; by amateurs or by professionals. The players may have an audience of non-players, such as when people are entertained by watching a chess championship. On the other hand, players in a game may constitute their own audience as they take their turn to play. Often, part of the entertainment for children playing a game is deciding who is part of their audience and who is a player.

Key components of games are goals, rules, challenge, and interaction. Games generally involve mental or physical stimulation, and often both. Many games help develop practical skills, serve as a form of exercise, or otherwise perform an educational, simulational, or psychological role.

Attested as early as 2600 BC, games are a universal part of human experience and present in all cultures. The Royal Game of Ur, Senet, and Mancala are some of the oldest known games.

Teesdale Allotments

Teesdale Allotments is a Site of Special Scientific Interest in the Teesdale district of County Durham, England. It consists of two large upland areas north of the Tees valley, one to the north and east of the village of Newbiggin, the other to the north-east of Middleton-in-Teesdale.

The area, which adjoins the Upper Teesdale SSSI, consists of enclosed upland grazings, and is of national importance for its bird populations. Species that breed in the area include Northern lapwing, common snipe, common redshank, Eurasian golden plover, black grouse and Eurasian curlew, all except the last of which are declining in numbers nationally. Densities of breeding waders are among the highest in Britain, with up to 90 pairs recorded from one 1 km square.The black grouse population is particularly important: while this species has declined almost everywhere in England, and is now extinct in some former breeding areas, such as Dartmoor and Exmoor, the population in Teesdale has remained relatively stable, and the area now holds 30 percent of the English population, 7 percent of it in the Teesdale Allotments.

Other breeding birds include common teal, merlin, red grouse, short-eared owl, ring ouzel, and Northern wheatear, all of which are listed, or are candidates for listing, in the United Kingdom's Red Data Book (Birds). Three breeding species—merlin, golden plover and short-eared owl—are listed in Annex 1 of the European Commission's Birds Directive as requiring special protection.

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