Cooing calls and cool dance moves are part of how black grouse add a touch of early morning magic to moorland edges from the north coast to the Borders.
What to look for
Males - ‘blackcock’ - are unmistakable in breeding finery. Shiny black plumage over most of the body contrasts with white under-tail feathers (best seen from the rear when the bird fans them). Bright red ‘wattles’ over the eyes add a final cosmetic touch. Females - ‘greyhens’ - wear camouflage gear, with a mix of grey, brown and tawny feathers.
Rarely, a black grouse will mate with the much larger capercaillie. Although sterile, a male ‘rakelhan’ as this hybrid is called, can cause havoc at his local blackcock display area by muscling-out the competition.
When and where to see
Black grouse use communal display areas, called ‘leks’. Males gather at leks in spring and summer to attract the attention of females. One male often gets most or all of the matings. Go on an organised watch if you can, through an established wildlife tour operator.
Various parts of the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Perthshire and the Cairngorms.
For more information see the Black Grouse UK website.