Black grouse

Male black grouse

©Margaret Holland

Female black grouse

©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Black grouse males lekking

Black grouse (males at lek) ©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Black grouse

Scientific name: Tetrao tetrix
The male black grouse, or 'Blackcock', is famed for its display behaviour, known as 'lekking'. A sight to behold, it fans out its tail and struts its stuff to show its dominance. Look out for it on upland heathlands.

Species information


Length: 40-56cm
Weight: 900g-1.2kg
Average lifespan: 5 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

January to December


The black grouse is a large bird, about the same size as a female pheasant. Males have a lyre-shaped tail, which they raise and fan out in displays known as 'leks'. Males gather at traditional sites and display to show dominance over each other and win females that watch from the surrounding vegetation. Between six and eleven eggs are laid in May in a concealed, moss-lined scrape in the ground; the chicks are independent after about three months.

How to identify

Male black grouse are black birds with a fan tail and white wing-bars. Females are smaller and grey-brown, with an intricate pattern of black barring, and notched tails.


Found on uplands in the north of England, North Wales and Scotland.

Did you know?

The black grouse has a varied diet: the young feed entirely on invertebrates, but adults eat the buds and shoots of bilberries and heather.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working to restore and protect our heathlands by promoting good management, clearing encroaching scrub and implementing beneficial grazing regimes. This work is vital if these habitats are to survive; you can help by supporting your local Wildlife Trust and becoming a member or volunteer.