Jointly with the purple-flowered shrub that forms its only home, the red grouse is an icon of Scottish heather moors. Careful management to boost grouse numbers for shooting since the late 1800s has made Scottish moors an international hotspot for this bird, now sought by shooting parties and birders alike.
What to look for
Cock grouse often like to keep a lookout over their patch of moor from a vantage point on a tussock or stone. So look for a grouse looking for you - a russet, hen-sized bird with a longish neck and short beak. Males in full breeding finery have hot-red wattles above each eye.
No other bird in the world makes such major use of heather. A red grouse eats it, shelters, nests and rears young in it and typically doesn’t move far from its home heath in its lifetime. Patchwork effects on grouse moors show where controlled burning has been done to promote heather growth as grouse food and cover.
When and where to see
Red grouse are year-round residents. In spring, look for cocks calling and making short song flights. Moorlands in Deeside and in the Borders are some of the best grouse habitat in Britain. But look also in many other places where you see the characteristic grouse moor patchwork effect.
For more information see the red grouse page from the RSPB website.