Red Grouse (Willow Ptarmigan)
Distribution Britain 945 (-12.7%) Ireland 141 (-66.4%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 250,000 Ireland 3,000
European status: 1,200,000 (23% in Britain and Ireland =2)
British population trend: probably poor but up 28% on BBS
How likely are you to record it? 242 squares (5.4%) Ranked 85 [75=]
The Red Grouse used to be considered the only truly British species but it is now relegated to sub-specific status of the circumpolar Willow Grouse. These birds were, and still are in some areas, very important gamebirds with very careful management of their heather moorlands by burning and predator control. Populations and shooting bags were at the highest at the end of the 19th century and have gone downhill since. Lack of management during the First World War, and the Second, over grazing by sheep, conversion of heather to grass or forestry have all contributed. Declines in bags, on well managed moors, has been about 50% over the last 60 years. Grouse populations exhibit marked cycles over 4 to 8 years which are caused by nematode parasites. The collapse of numbers can be stopped by catching and dosing a good percentage of the breeding birds with vermicides in spring. In Ireland densities of birds are less than in Britain and the birds have declined and contracted in range very seriously over the last 80 years even though they do not exhibit the same cycles as the British birds. Further declines seem inevitable where serious money is not available for management.
Ridpath, S.M. & Thirgood, S.J. 1997 Birds of prey and red grouse. London: Stationery Office.
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead