Vol 2, #6 – The Black Grouse

Black Grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) for Birds Illustrated

Black Grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) for Birds Illustrated

From col. C. E. Petford. Copyrighted by
Nature Study Pub. Co., 1897, Chicago.


Alone on English moors I’ve seen the Black Cock stray,
Sounding his earnest love-note on the air.


ELL known as the Black Cock is supposed to be, we fancy few of our readers have ever seen a specimen. It is a native of the more southern countries of Europe, and still survives in many portions of the British Islands, especially those localities where the pine woods and heaths afford it shelter, and it is not driven away by the presence of human habitation.

The male bird is known to resort at the beginning of the nesting season to some open spot, where he utters his love calls, and displays his new dress to the greatest advantage, for the purpose of attracting as many females as may be willing to consort with him. His note when thus engaged is loud and resonant, and can be heard at a considerable distance. This crowing sound is accompanied by a harsh, grating, stridulous kind of cry which has been compared to the noise produced by whetting a scythe. The Black Cock does not pair, but leaves his numerous mates to the duties of maternity and follows his own desires while they prepare their nests, lay their eggs, hatch them, and bring up the young. The mother bird, however, is a fond, watchful parent, and when she has been alarmed by man or a prowling beast, has been known to remove her eggs to some other locality, where she thinks they will not be discovered.

The nest is carelessly made of grasses and stout herbage, on the ground, under the shelter of grass and bushes. There are from six to ten eggs of yellowish gray, with spots of light brown. The young are fed first upon insects, and afterwards on berries, grain, and the buds and shoots of trees.

The Black Grouse is a wild and wary creature. The old male which has survived a season or two is particularly shy and crafty, distrusting both man and dog, and running away as soon as he is made aware of approaching danger.

In the autumn the young males separate themselves from the other sex and form a number of little bachelor establishments of their own, living together in harmony until the next nesting season, when they all begin to fall in love; “the apple of discord is thrown among them by the charms of the hitherto repudiated sex, and their rivalries lead them into determined and continual battles, which do not cease until the end of the season restores them to peace and sobriety.”

The coloring of the female is quite different from that of the male Grouse. Her general color is brown, with a tinge of orange, barred with black and speckled with the same hue, the spots and bars being larger on the breast, back, and wings, and the feathers on the breast more or less edged with white. The total length of the adult male is about twenty-two inches, and that of the female from seventeen to eighteen inches. She also weighs nearly one-third less than her mate, and is popularly termed the Heath Hen.



BLACK GROUSE.Tetrao tetrix. Other name: “Black Cock.” (or Lyrurus tetrix)

Range—Southern Europe and the British Islands.

Nest—Carelessly made, of grasses and stout herbage, on the ground.

Eggs—Six to ten, of yellowish gray, with spots of light brown.

 Black Grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) Cock ©WikiC

Black Grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) Cock ©WikiC

Lee’s Addition:

Like the partridge that gathers a brood which she did not hatch and sits on eggs which she has not laid, so is he who gets riches by unjust means and not by right. He will leave them, or they will leave him, in the midst of his days, and at his end he will be a fool. (Jeremiah 17:11 AMP)

The Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix or Lyrurus tetrix) is a member of the Phasianidae – Pheasants, Fowl & Allies Family. There are twelve Grouse in the family of Turkeys, Partridges, Ptarmigans, Snowcocks, Francolins, Quail, Tragopans, Pheasants and even Peafowl in that family along with a few others. A total of 182 species are found in the Phasianidae Family.

(From Wikipedia with editing) – The Black Grouse or Blackgame (Tetrao tetrix) is a large game bird in the grouse family. It is a sedentary species, breeding across northern Eurasia in moorland and bog areas near to woodland, mostly boreal. The Black Grouse is closely related to the Caucasian Grouse.

The female is greyish-brown and has a cackling call. She takes all responsibility for nesting and caring for the chicks, as is typical with gamebirds.

Black Grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) Egg ©WikiC

Black Grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) Egg ©WikiC

The Black Grouse is one of the many species first described in the 10th edition of Systema Naturae in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus, and still bears its original binomial name. Both Tetrao and tetrix come from Ancient Greek words referring to some form of game bird.

The male and female are sometimes referred to by their folk names, Blackcock and Greyhen respectively. These names first occur in the literature with John Ray in 1674. Heathcock and Heathhen are also common names.

Black Grouse is a large bird with males being around 21 in (53 cm) long and weighing 2.2–3.2 lb (1,000–1,450 grams) and females approximately 16 in (40 cm) and weighing 1.7–2.4 lb (750–1,110 grams). The cock is very distinctive, with black plumage, apart from red wattles and a white wingbar, and a lyre-shaped tail, which appears forked in flight. His song is loud, bubbling and somewhat dove-like.

Black Grouse can be found across Europe (Swiss-Italian-French Alps specially) from Great Britain (but not Ireland) through Scandinavia and Estonia into Russia. In Eastern Europe they can be found in Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Romania and Ukraine. There is a population in the Alps, and isolated remnants in Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It formerly occurred in Denmark, but the Danish Ornithological Society (DOF) has considered it extinct since 2001.

Black grouse have a very distinctive and well-recorded courtship ritual or game. At dawn in the spring, the males strut around in a traditional area and display whilst making a highly distinctive mating call. This process is called a lek – the grouse are said to be lekking. In western Europe these gatherings seldom involve more than 40 birds; in Russia 150 is not uncommon and 200 have been recorded.

The tails of black-cocks have, since late Victorian times, been popular adornments for hats worn with Highland Dress. Most commonly associated with Glengarry and Balmoral or Tam O’Shanter caps, they still continue to be worn by pipers of civilian and military pipe bands. Since 1904, all ranks of the Royal Scots and King’s Own Scottish Borderers have worn them in their full-dress headgear and that tradition is carried on in the dress glengarries of the current Scottish-super regiment, The Royal Regiment of Scotland.


Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for October 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources, with editing)

Next Article – The American Flamingo

The Previous Article – The Green-winged Teal

Gospel Message


Black Grouse – xeno-canto.org

Black Grouse – Wikipedia

Black Grouse – ARKive

Black Grouse – IBC