Red Grouse Biology

Irish Red Grouse are characteristic of heather-dominated moorland and feed mainly on a diet of ling heather. They also take other foods such as berries, and the shoots and leaves of other plants.

Red Grouse begin to form pairs during the autumn and males become increasingly territorial as winter progresses. The nest is a shallow scrape in the ground which is lined with vegetation. Normally, about six to nine eggs are laid, during April and May. The eggs are incubated for 19 to 25 days.

The chicks can fly after 12 to 13 days after hatching and are fully grown after 30 to 35 days. From a conservation perspective, research shows that Red Grouse require a wide range of heather at various ages. This provides a matrix of shelter, nesting and chick rearing habitats. A balance of these age classes is achieved through careful patch burning or cutting. This creates an improved micro-climate, which is beneficial for the reproduction of invertebrates which are a vital food source for Red Grouse chicks.

Research also shows that predation is a significant cause of Red Grouse mortality. Predation during nesting and early brood-rearing has the greatest influence on Red Grouse populations. Nest predators include foxes, grey crows, magpies and mink. Targeted reduction of nest predators may lead to dramatic increases in the breeding productivity of Red Grouse.