Monday, 29 October 2012

Galliformes 10: The Joy of Leks – The Black Grouse

The third of the British Grouse to cover in this series is one that is threatened in the UK, but is still very widespread abroad – the Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix. With a natural range extending in suitable habitat from Western Europe across to Eastern China, and Korea, the Black Grouse is essentially a bird of early successional forest and forest edge habitats in the Taiga zone, and in the UK is on the extreme edge of its range. In Turkey and the Caucasus mountains it is replaced by the very similar Caucasian Grouse T.mklosiewiczi

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Galliformes 9: Rock Ptarmigan

Ptarmigan - spring plumage
Still to be found on the peaks of the Cairngorms, and other mountains in northern Scotland, can be found one of the hardiest of British birds, the Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus muta. Once found in the Lake District in England and the Southern Uplands in Scotland, this is a relict species, surviving from the last Ice Age. Widespread outside the UK, with a circumpolar distribution, it is basically the northern replacement for the Willow Grouse, living in barren, treeless landscapes of the tundra. South of the Arctic, the changing habitat as the world warmed up after the last glaciation marooned populations on the peaks of various mountains far to the south of its main range, where the bitter winds and cold winters that it is adapted to survive still gave it an edge against competitors.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Galliformes 8: Red Grouse

Red Grouse (summer)
While many species of Galliform bird can be seen in zoos and private collections all over thw world, one group is conspicuous by their near total absence. These are the grouse, the various species of which are the most distinctive terrestrial birds of Arctic and Taiga regions of the northern hemisphere. Often classed as a separate family Tetraonidae, they have many unique dietary and behavioural specialisations, which is why they are much harder to maintain in captivity.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Galliformes 7: Red-Legged Partridge

A.rufa (France)
In 1770 a new species of partridge in addition to our native Grey Partridge was introduced into the UK for hunting. This was the Red-Legged or French Partridge, Alectoris rufa, and releases continue to this day on game estates.