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Woodland management for birds: Priority species

Feeding: Black grouse feed on a variety of seasonally available food resources, eg in spring adults feed extensively on flowering heads of cotton grass, and in summer bilberry leaves, stems and berries are important. Ericaceous shrubs, particularly heather are important food plants forming the bulk of the diet throughout the year. The buds and fruit of native broadleaf trees and larch are eaten, particularly in winter. For the first three weeks after hatching, spiders and insects, especially moth caterpillars and sawfly larvae, are eaten by chicks.

Conservation issues

  • Large-scale habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, eg the loss of moorland edge habitats through conversion to sheep pasture (Baines and Hudson 1995).

  • Increased levels of sheep grazing resulting in reductions in dwarf shrub cover and vegetation height (Baines 1996).

  • Maturation of afforested areas of moorland causing the loss of field-layer resources when canopy closure occurs (Cayford et al. 1989; Pearce-Higgins et al. 2005).

  • Predation is the main proximate cause of adult mortality (Anglestam 1984; Picozzi and Hepburn 1984), chick mortality (Johnstone and Lindley 2003) and nest failure in black grouse (Storass and Wegge 1987; Brittas and Willebrand

    • 1991)

      and limits population growth rates in some places (Marcstrom et al. 1988; Kauhala and Helle 2002).

  • Shifts in geographic range and changes in abundance during the last 30 years have been correlated with climate change (Loneux et al. 2004; Loneux et al. 2005).


Habitat management advice


  • Target management into the key areas.

  • Maintain short vegetation on lek sites by maintaining grazing levels and/or mowing.

  • Maintain open views at lek sites through the removal of encroaching trees within 50 m.

  • Thin moorland fringe conifer woodland in bands to produce a feathered edge providing easy access to birds disturbed on moorland by potential predators:

    • outer 0–25 m band at 10% tree density

    • inner 25–75 m band at 25–50% tree density.

Increase the extent or improve the quality of nest sites

  • Retain areas of tall (c50 cm) heather and rushes to provide nest site cover within open woodland situations.

  • Block or collapse large, deep, man-made drains to reduce chick mortality.

Increase the extent or improve the quality of foraging habitat

  • Retain and/or create areas of broadleaved trees or larch to provide spring and winter food for adults.

  • Thin conifers planted on heath to 10% tree density by selective felling to provide additional foraging resources.

  • Implement a heather management regime by cutting on a 10–15 year rotation on dry heath, eg 8 m x 30 m blocks or 5–6 2 m x 30 m strips, with each strip separated with a similarly sized uncut strip.

  • Maintain and/or create wet features such as shallow pools, blocked grips and open flushes, by retaining existing pools, or by blocking grips and drains in open locations.

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