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BLACK GROUSE - Tetrao tetrix

 

The Lek (Swedish for play) is where the male birds (cocks) congregate everyday from March to May to win the heart of a passing female (greyhen) bird that will visit many lek sites before making her choice on a mate. She will choose the strongest and most dominant to ensure the healthiest genes are passed onto future generations.

The male takes no part in the rearing of the chicks and as a ground nesting bird the female is adequately equipped with excellent camouflage.

Lekking can start from 4am and will finish when the sun hits the lek site.  It is a fascinating experience to watch and hear but sadly their numbers are rapidly in decline and are a RSPB red listed species.

 

RSPB Advice on watching black grouse

Black grouse lek for much of the year, the key period being April and May.

Watch leks and feeding birds from a vehicle. Black grouse pay little attention to stationary vehicles that are at least 100 metres away. Ensure that you do not block access or disturb nearby residents. Avoid approaching a lek on foot, which usually disturbs the birds.

Arrive at leks before daybreak. A vehicle stopping once it is light can disturb the birds. Stay in your vehicle and watch quietly through binoculars and telescopes. Get the flask of coffee from the boot before your vigil. Don't start the engine until after lekking has wound down, usually about two hours after dawn. Alternatively, consider watching a lek in the evening.

Keep to footpaths, especially between May and August, when there may be nesting females and young birds present.

Keep dogs under control (on a lead) when close to black grouse habitat and do not bring dogs into the field when you are watching grouse.

The RSPB and Forest Enterprise have organised opportunities to watch black grouse in Corrimony near Cannich.