Research on Red Grouse: Why?

Research may seem like a dry academic pursuit, however, nothing is further from the truth. We cannot talk from our stomachs because no one will listen!

In conjunction with Dr. Barry McMahon of UCD, the Trust kick started a research project that would attempt to pin down the question of genetic identity and diversity among Ireland’s Red Grouse. Barry’s research hypothesis was: “are Irish Red Grouse a separate sub-species to Red Grouse in the UK” ?. His second question was “How genetically diverse are Irish Red Grouse”? In terms of Red Grouse conservation, these questions are crucial because Ireland is bound by international obligations to protect diversity within species.

Research findings on Irish Red Grouse:

Unfortunately the picture that emerged was not a good one. In terms of genetic diversity, Red Grouse throughout Ireland are squeezed tightly into a genetic bottleneck. This was caused primarily by the loss of Red Grouse habitat, which has been so profound that it effectively created island populations, unable to communicate because they are physically cut off from one another.

The result of our research is as follows:

  • Irish Red Grouse are genetically distinct from British Red Grouse
  • Irish Red Grouse populations are seriously bottlenecked
  • Small isolated populations of Red Grouse are at risk of extinction – if no action is taken to save them, we predict some of these populations may be extinct within the next decade
  • The importation and release of Red Grouse from the UK to Ireland do not address the underlying cause of local extinctions.
  • Based on the genetic study on Irish Red Grouse – the population and distribution of Red Grouse estimated in the NPWS/BWI National Red Grouse survey is accurate
  • Although they are bottlenecked, Red Grouse from Wicklow are the most genetically diverse in Ireland

For more information follow the link below:
Irish Red Grouse Study