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Some Good News For Rare Black Grouse

Posted on 28. June, 2010.

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Wardens at the RSPB’s Geltsdale nature reserve in the north of England have been excited to see far more black grouse 'lekking' than usual on their early morning watches this spring which is bucking the trend in the rest of England.

Following the hardest winter for more than 30 years, endangered populations of black grouse in northern England have dropped to their lowest recorded level, with numbers plummeting from 730 males last year to 400 according to recent monitoring carried out by scientists from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Stephen Westerberg, site manager at Geltsdale notes that wardens have counted 30 males this year compared with 18 last year. Male black grouse (often known as black cocks) are well known for their incredible courtship displays called 'leks'. They display to attract a female mate by strutting with their tails spread and heads held low and at the same time making a strange rhythmic call.

The black grouse population has been declining rapidly in recent years in the UK. The decline is thought to be due to changes in land use, such as more intensive grazing and pasture improvement in the uplands.