Name: the red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scotica) is a member of the grouse family found in Great Britain and Ireland. They are usually classified as a subspecies of willow ptarmigan but are sometimes considered to be a separate species.
Appearance: they can be distinguished from willow or rock ptarmigans by their reddish-brown feathers and lack of a white winter coat. Their tails are black and their legs are white. They also have distinctive red feathers over their eyes.
Size: red grouse are medium-sized members of the grouse family – with a wingspan of around 60 cm and a weight of 0.7 kg.
Diet: they are herbivores, mainly feeding on the shoots, seeds, and flowers of heather.
Did you know: humans have a complicated relationship with these intriguing birds. They are considered to be a ‘game bird’ and are shot in large numbers during the shooting season. Many moors in the uplands of the UK are managed to support red grouse populations and the shooting industry. Landowners often burn areas of heather and kill predators such as foxes, crows, and hen harriers to boost grouse numbers. This has created tension between conservationists on the one hand and landowners on the other. Alongside this, red grouse are widely known across the UK as the logo of The Famous Grouse whisky, and are also the emblem of the journal British Birds.
Location: red grouse are endemic to the British Isles. They are found in heather moorlands across Scotland and Ireland as well as northern parts of England and Wales.
Where to see Red grouse
According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see red grouse in the following places:
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Photo credit: WildSide team member Ash Welch