It's springtime, and male red grouse are getting territorial. About the size of a plump partridge, a deep chestnut-brown in colour, they appear unremarkable, save for an eye-catching red eyebrow; a sign of how good a partner he would make to a female. Bigger and brighter is better, and any other flash of red on a male's territory is seen as competition, even if that red flash is your red coat! A red grouse can get carried away when chasing off rivals, and have even been known to react angrily to a red car parking nearby, while the females quietly go about their business.
The boisterous ‘famous’ grouse is found on moorland in northern England, Wales, and Scotland, as well as in Ireland… and nowhere else in the world!
Find red grouse
The fabulous uplands of at Glaslyn Nature Reserve, Montgomeryshire will take your breath away with stunning views of the Dyfi valley and beyond. The reserve is open all year round but your best chance of spying a red grouse is in the late summer when the chicks have grown and the heather is in flower.
- Cumbria, Drumburgh Moss
- Denbighshire, Gors Maen Llwyd
- Derbyshire, Ladybower Wood
- Highlands, Handa Island
- Highlands, Rahoy Hills
- Highlands, Isle of Eigg
- Lothians, Red Moss of Balerno
- Northumberland and Cumbria, Butterburn Flow
- Northumberland, Harbottle Crags
- Perthshire, Balnaguard Glen
- Staffordshire, The Roaches
- Yorkshire, Fen Bog
How to do it
Not all grouse are as brave as others. Most red grouse will fly away if disturbed, whirring wings skimming them low and fast over the heather. And especially at this time of year, keep dogs on a lead when there are ground nesting birds about and stick to the footpaths.
If you can't get there
Red grouse isn’t the only grouse in Britain. The handsome black grouse is famous for its lekking behaviour, where several males gather together to fight over the attentions of the females. These leks are now few and far between, and very easy to disturb, but Durham Wildlife Trust has some wonderful videos of black grouse lekking on its YouTube channel like the one below, as well as its Living Uplands website.
More wildlife experiences
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