Published in support of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan for black grouse

Conservation status

European and Global

The range of the black grouse extends across Europe, from Britain in the west to eastern Siberia. They also occur as far north as Norway (at 70°N) and as far south as Kyrgyzstan and North Korea (42°N). There are between 550,000 and 1.8 million black grouse in Europe; most of these populations are declining, though as the map below shows, Sweden is a notable exception. Black grouse are now extinct in Luxembourg, Hungary and, since this map was published, Denmark. They are very close to extinction in Belgium and the Netherlands.

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Black grouse European distribution. Tucker, G. M. & Heath, M. F.(1992) Birds in Europe: their conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

The black grouse is considered to be vulnerable in Europe, and is listed as a Species of European Conservation Concern (SPEC 3) by BirdLife International (Tucker & Heath 1994). There are large stable populations in Scandinavia and Russia, studies of which may be able to tell us more about management practices to aid in their conservation in other parts of Europe. For example, in Scandinavia, forest management work has selectively opened up areas of forest, which benefits black grouse as well as other species.

Click here to read The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust's overview of the black grouse in Europe.

Legal status

Black grouse is listed on Annex I of the European Union Birds Directive, requiring Member States to undertake special habitat conservation measures in order to ensure the species' survival (except in the UK, since the endemic race is excluded from Annex I).

It is also listed on Annex II/2, which permits its shooting, outside the breeding season, in eight Member States, including the UK, subject to domestic legislation. Black grouse is also on Annex III/2, which permits the sale, transport for sale, keeping for sale and the offering for sale of live or dead birds and of any readily recognisable parts or derivatives of such birds. Click here for further information.

Black grouse is also listed on Appendix III of the 'Bern Convention', more properly known as the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. This requires contracting parties (all countries in Europe holding black grouse except Russia) to ensure that black grouse are protected and that any exploitation (e.g. hunting) is regulated so that it does not threaten the population or cause it serious disturbance. Click here for more information.