Research Output

Spatial and structural habitat requirements of black grouse in Scottish forests

Sympathetic management and placement of forests to provide/protect suitable habitat is a key focus of Scottish black grouse conservation. More information about how the species responds to forests’ spatial and structural variation is required. We used lek data from 1992 and 2010 in the Tay region and from 2007 in Argyll, Galloway and Inverness regions to examine relationships between lek fate, size and habitat. We also used radio-telemetry data
from 89 black grouse in the Tay region to examine individual use of forest habitat.

Main findings
- Lekking groups in Tay selected for moorland areas in both 1992 and 2010. Distributions between 1992 and 2010 shifted with changes in young forest components. Of all habitats, area of moorland or young conifer forest showed the smallest between-region variation (43-67% and 9-15% respectively).
- Moorland was the most selected habitat in most groups. Males also showed high selection for farmland and broadleaf woodland. Forestry (closed-canopy and unplanted patches) and new native pinewood habitats were generally avoided relative to moorland, except in adult females in autumn-winter (both) and spring-summer (new native
pinewood). 78% birds using forestry moved < 600 m from the external edge. Such movements appeared greatest where larch and/or substantial unplanted areas (clearings/rides) were present. Females were associated with taller ground vegetation,
higher densities of trees and more coniferous tree species (particularly larch).
- Use of older forest types (closed-canopy forestry, broadleaf woodland) relative to younger forest types (new native pinewood) generally increased with measures of winter severity. Survival, however, did not significantly differ between years. Older forests may provide above-snow foraging in severe winters and help buffer against poor survival.
- The following management recommendations are made: (1) conserve large and well connected areas of moorland adjacent to forests, (2) provide a diverse forest age and species composition at scale of lekking group and (3) constructively manage forest edges
on moorland boundaries to facilitate access.

  • Type:

    Project Report

  • Date:

    01 January 2013

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    QH Natural history

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    598 Birds

  • Funders:

    Cairngorms National Park Authority; Forest Enterprise; Scottish Natural Heritage


White, P., Warren, P., & Baines, D. (2013). Spatial and structural habitat requirements of black grouse in Scottish forests. Inverness: Scottish Natural Heritage



Black Grouse, habitat, forests,

Monthly Views:

Available Documents