Upland Ecology

Historically, the natural habitat of the black grouse is likely to have been clearings in and at the edges of the forests which once covered much of Britain, but which are now confined to a few parts of Scotland. 

The main requirements for black grouse are reasonably dense vegetation cover for roosting, brood rearing and nesting and protection from predators. As in many other parts of Europe, black grouse have adapted to other habitats. In Durham this means that for several centuries they have lived in areas dominated by heather moorland and grazing, with few trees.

The diet of adult black grouse varies between seasons, so they need a range of food plants within their habitat. Vital plants include bilberry and heather, which are eaten throughout the year, the latter particularly important in winter.

Northern England Habitat Food
Spring Blanket bog and in-bye land Cotton grass flower buds, clover, buttercups, sorrel, marsh marigold and other herbs
Summer Rough grassland, wet flushes Juncus seeds, seeds and flowers from grasses and herbs (adults). Invertebrrates, especially sawfly larvae (young)
Autumn / Winter Heather moor, rough grassland, in-bye land Ling heather, berries from shrubs

Once the males have mated with the females at the lek, the female does everything, from nest building to chick rearing.

Black grouse nest on the ground, in tall, reasonably dense vegetation, usually heather or rushes, making a shallow depression and lining it with grasses and moss.

The female lays 6-11 eggs, some time between late April and early June. Chicks hatch after about 3-4 weeks, leave the nest immediately and are able to fly weakly by their second week. The chicks feed in insect-rich vegetation, such as wet flushes with a mix of heather, bog myrtle, rush and white grasses. The chicks become fully independent after two to three months.