Black Grouse

Lyrurus tetrix

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The black grouse is a gamebird belonging to the grouse family. Its legs and feet are feathered. Both sexes are endowed with a thick plumage with white wingbars, nevertheless they show noticeable markers of sexual dimorphism. The hen’s plumage is an inconspicuous brown colour and heavily barred with black, the head and throat exhibit rufous tones. The tail is clearly forked. The cock’s plumage is a richly contrasting, glossy blue-black to steel-blue, the forked tail is lyre-shaped with white under coverts. When in breeding plumage, the featherless, crescent moon-shaped, intensely red patches above the eyes (combs) swell considerably. Black grouse gather on revisited leks (low vegetation with an unobstructed vantage points), where they perform impressive courtship displays. The splendidly-coloured cocks dance around the hens while making rumbling calls. The cocks also engage in ritualised aggression. From a raised position, the hens “survey” the lek before choosing to pair with a cock. The female is solely responsible for incubating and raising the young. Interestingly, sometimes so-called hybridisations occur, whereby western capercaillie and pheasants pair with one another. A hybrid between western capercaillie and black grouse is called a "rackelhahn" or "rackelwild". Adult black grouse have an energy-rich, primarily plant-based diet consisting of leaf buds or berries, whereas the chicks require additional protein, such as spiders or insects. The populations of black grouse have significantly fallen since the mid-20th century. This is caused by drastic changes to their natural habitats brought about by human activity, such as the irrigation of moorland, afforestation and intensive cultivation of arable land. The additional disturbance caused by holidaymakers in the summer and winter months is not an insignificant contributing factor. The black grouse is territorial and inhabits both natural and extensively cultivated landscapes, such as heathland, mountain meadows and felled forests. In Germany, there are now only a few isolated populations of black grouse found on heath and marshlands, as well as at high altitudes such as the Rhone, Bavarian Forest and the Alps. Black grouse are are strictly protected under § 44 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act.

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