You are most likely to see red grouse that make their home on heather moorland and are here all year round.  Both the male and female are red/brown, but the male can be identified close up by the bright red wattle above his eye.

Black Grouse

Rarely seen is the black grouse; a larger relative of the red grouse. The male is black with a white undertail which is revealed when he fans out his lyre-shaped tail during courtship.  Females are a speckled brown (so they are camouflaged on the nest on the ground) and look quite different to the male.

They make a bubbling call which travels a long way in the still air early in the morning. Males (cocks) gather at ‘leks’ at dawn to compete for the right to mate with a female (sometimes called a grey hen). This vigorous display, which have been used by the birds for generations, can be seen in the early hours during April and May.

Black grouse like a mixture of habitats with heather, rushes, bogs and scattered woodland.  Once very numerous in the National Park there are now only a few remaining.

We have worked with landowners around habit improvements, such as creating wet areas with cotton grass (one of their favourite foods) and new native woodlands. We hope this can link the last survivors here with bigger populations to the south in the North Pennines to help them recover.

Black Grouse are now only found in a few places in the north of England, including the North Pennines and Yorkshire Dales. They have declined significantly in Northumberland National Park in recent years, and now only a few birds remain in Redesdale, Hadrian’s Wall and the Cheviots.

We would love to hear from anyone who has seen any Black Grouse in the National Park. Please use our Contact page to get in touch around any sightings.


Where to see them

The adults eat young heather shoots and chicks eat insects. They often lie low in the heather and then surprise you by rocketing up from your feet calling ‘go-back, go-back, go-back’.

A mosaic of different ages of heather, together with bog and rushy moorland suit them.  Their numbers are highest in areas of the Park that are managed as grouse moors.

Game-keepers burn and cut heather to create heather patches and also control numbers of their predators.  We work with landowners to ensure that sensitive habitats such as bogs and areas near watercourses don’t get burnt and only legal predator control takes place.