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

Wales Black Grouse Recovery Project

The Welsh Black Grouse Recovery Project started in June 1999 to stop the serious decline of black grouse in Wales, which if left unchecked could have led to their extinction in 10-15 years. The Project integrates a comprehensive suite of habitat prescriptions, targeted to six key areas in north Wales. In the long term, the Project aims to increase the range and numbers of black grouse in Wales. In addition, the Project aims to raise the profile of black grouse in Wales and awareness of how management measures can reverse the decline. During 1999-2001, the Project was funded by the European Union (European Agriculture Guidance and Guarantee Fund), the National Assembly for Wales (Rural Development Grant), the RSPB, Countryside Council for Wales and Forest Enterprise Cymru. During 2003-2006 the project was boosted by similar funding plus the Hiraethog Project and since then has relied on funding from Countryside Council for Wales, Snowdonia National Park (RTE), Welsh Assembly Government, The RSPB, Heather and Hillforts project (Denbighshire) and Forestry Commission Wales.

Using money from the European Union and the National Assembly for Wales, in conjunction with agri-environment schemes and the Woodland Grant Scheme, the Project helped to restore the diversity of mixed land use of moor edge, rough grazing and woodland. Training days, publications, seminars and newsletters have been used to promote the needs of black grouse to landowners, foresters, farmers and grant bodies.

Fact and Figures
Using the Welsh Black Grouse Survey in 1997, the Project identified six key areas, based mainly on the presence of suitable habitat and known distribution of male black grouse in mid and north Wales. These became the project core area and comprised 80% of the remaining black grouse population in Wales.


      Black Grouse distribution in Wales                                              Black Grouse distribution in Wales
   (BTO/IWC 1968-1972 Breedng Bird Atlas)                (BTO/IWC 1988-1991 Breeding Bird Atlas)



           Black Grouse distribution in Wales 2002                     Black Grouse distribution in Wales 2005
           (RSPB)                                                                                          (RSPB)

   Maps show black grouse distribution in Wales based on presence of lekking males within 10km squares

Using management recommendations from existing research, the Project targeted the land within a 1.5km radius around each of 18 focal leks that contained the greatest number of males at the start of the project. These focal leks are situated within forestry or on open moorland and semi-improved grassland and cover 11,300 ha of upland habitats. Habitat management had three aims

· To create patches of young moor vegetation for chick and adult feeding,
· To make wet areas accessible to feeding chicks,
· By creating this habitat patchiness, reduce the hunting success of predators.

At the same time, some focal lek areas received predator control by other organisations and private landowners. Click here to find out how we applied management prescriptions to enhance the habitats within this project area. (Word 225kb).

The population of black grouse increased by almost 90% during the first phase of the Wales Black Grouse Recovery Project.

Searches of all leks within the black grouse areas were undertaken in each year of the project except in 2001. A full census of lekking males in 2002, using the same method as earlier censuses, was used to measure the population size and range and to assess whether targeted habitat management had been beneficial, the same process was again undertaken in 2005.

Across the whole of Wales, the 2002 census estimated that there were 243 lekking males, 85% more than in 1997 (131 males) and only 8% fewer than in 1986 (264 males). The increase was restricted to areas where advice was given and management work was undertaken. The 2005 all Wales census estimated that there were 211 lekking males, 61% more than in 1997 but a 13% decrease since the 2002 census. The numbers on key areas have fluctuated since 2005, possibly reflecting changes in the intensity of habitat management that could be delivered. However, elsewhere, the numbers of black grouse have continued to fall and the range has contracted further, so there is still a long way to go before the black grouse population in Wales is sustainable.

How can the Project help?
The Project is currently working closely with CCW and Forestry Commission Wales (Cymru), to develop agri-environment, SSSI and woodland management schemes. Landowners and managers with estates/farms that lie adjacent to or within the current range of black grouse can contact the project officer who cant hen offer a free site assessment, advise on how best to manage the land for black grouse and who to approach for the correct grants. The Project also runs training and information days and continues to monitor the fortunes of black grouse in Wales.

Contact details
If you would like to help or would like a site visit, contact the Black Grouse Officer.

More information
How you can help black grouse on your land/Sut allwch chi helpu’r ruglar ddu ar eich tir is a bilingual advice leaflet for landowners, farmers and foresters published by RSPB Cymru, with the support of the Welsh Biodiversity Action Plan Black Grouse Steering Group.