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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Red Grouse


Bird Sightings - Red Grouse
Male Red Grouse

Red Grouse

(Willow Ptarmigan)

Lagopus lagopus

Gaelic: Coileach-fraoich

Photographs © Christine Walling
Pentland Road - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
16th August, 2009

"Brian has confirmed that the picture attached is that of a red grouse...I took the photograph - when travelling the Pentland road from Stornoway to Carloway on 16th August"


  • Red Grouse
  • Lagopus lagopus
  • Gaelic: Coileach-fraoich
  • UK: Resident breeder, AMBER LIST Summer 155,000 pairs BTO ( breeds in North & West UK)
  • WI: Fairly common resident breeder (100 - 999 breeding pairs)
  • Distribution: North Eurasia, North America
  • Habitat: Nest is a shallow scrape lined with vegetation. Lays 6-9 oval glossy creamy (blotched ) eggs are laid April - May
    Heather moorland, coastal heath, farmland
  • Diet: Feeds mostly on heather, seeds berries, insects
  • Plump, medium-size (37-42) bird. Body reddish-brown. Male has small red wattle/comb over eye. Legs & feet have pale feathers. Tail short tail. Bill slightly hooked. Flight: rapid wing beats making whirring sound when flushed from rest place. Alternates these with long glides
  • Listen to a Red Grouse RSPB site (Cackling, crowing call "Go back, Go Back"
  • Similar Birds: Black Grouse (very rare), Ptarmigan (very rare)


The 12th August "Glorious 12th" is the start of the Grouse shooting season in most years. There is a record from 1853 of a shooting party in Lewis killing 2400 birds in a single session. 1853 was the year that the breech loading gun was invented. People would pay more to shoot grouse, than to graze sheep so an industry began. There are now thought to be less than 1000 breeding pairs of Red Grouse in the whole of the Western Isles.

Regular crashes in grouse populations are caused by Strongyle Worm or Threadworm (Trichostrongylus tenuis). The adult worm burrows into the walls of the intestine causes damage including internal bleeding. The worms reduce the digestive efficiency leading to poor condition of the grouse. WIKI


Red Grouse records in the Western Isles

Lagopus lagopus scotius is a fairly common resident breeder (100 - 999 breeding pairs)
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)


On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Red Grouse is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)




Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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