Research Output

Variations in Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix winter survival in a year with prolonged snow cover

  Capsule Low Black Grouse survival rate in northern England during a severe winter with prolonged snow was attributed to limited availability and proximity of woodland.

Aims To compare the impact of the severe winter weather on Black Grouse in an open treeless landscape in northern England with more wooded landscapes in Scotland.

Methods We assessed the impact of severe winter conditions in relation to previous milder winters at a sample of leks counted annually in northern England and the Scottish Highlands between 2001 and 2012. In addition, following the severe winter in 2009/10 Black Grouse were surveyed at all leks in 2010 where they were surveyed the previous year. We assessed woodland habitat extent within 1 km of leks and related this to indices of Black Grouse over-winter survival.

Results Black Grouse in northern England were severely affected by the severe winter of 2009/10, declining by 38% in comparison to a 23% increase in the Scottish Highlands. Leks in northern England were at higher altitudes and had less tree cover than those in Scotland.

Conclusion The lack of woodland cover around leks in northern England implies that availability of above snow forage, shelter and cover from predators was too low for Black Grouse to survive during prolonged deep snow. Measures are required to provide emergency food sources in periods of prolonged snow, such as the provision of supplementary food at leks, the cultivation of seed-rich arable crops, and the establishment of pockets of woodland.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    21 March 2013

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  • Publisher

    Informa UK Limited

  • DOI:


  • Cross Ref:


  • ISSN:


  • Library of Congress:

    QH301 Biology

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    577 Ecology


Warren, P., White, P. J. C., Baines, D., Atterton, F. & Brown, M. J. (2013). Variations in Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix winter survival in a year with prolonged snow cover. Bird Study. 60(2), 257-263. doi:10.1080/00063657.2013.778225. ISSN 0006-3657



Ecology, evolution, behavior and systematics; Black Grouse,

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