Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus)
The Red Grouse is unmistakeable. The loud guttural call of the male grouse ushering intruders to ‘go-back go-back’ and along with its red eye comb, and dark chestnut plumage, is distinctive and once encountered, hard to forget. The female, with her paler more subtle plumage, is less showy and less vocal compared to the male. Most of the time, Red Grouse will fly away if disturbed, with whirring wing beats skimming low and fast over the heather. Adult grouse feed largely on heather year-round, with younger shoots preferred. At this time of year, Red Grouse expel two types of droppings. Dry fibrous pellets and wet caecal also known as ‘soft’ droppings. Both can indicate presence or absence of Red Grouse where no birds are actually sighted. Roost sites comprise of a heap of droppings. A pair roost will consist of two heaps of droppings (of both soft type and pellets), spaced usually up to one meter apart.
Key populations of Red Grouse are known to occur in the Wicklow and Dublin Mountains, the Slieve Bloom Mountains in County Laois, the Knockmealdown Mountains in counties Tipperary and Waterford, the Nephin Mountains in County Mayo and the Blue Stack Mountains in County Donegal. Recent sightings submitted to Ireland’s Citizen Science Portal show that small populations also occur in other peatland sites.
About the Red Grouse 2021-2022 Survey
The aim of this survey is to help determine the current distribution of Red Grouse in Ireland and to help detect any changes in their distribution since the last national survey of 2006-2008. Observation from recorders will contribute valuable data to the wider national survey funded by the National Parks & Wildlife Service and coordinated by KRC Ecological Ltd. This larger survey aims to estimate the overall abundance of the national population and to detect any changes in abundance and distribution since the last national survey of 2006-2008.
The survey runs from 1st December 2021 and continues until 31st March 2022.
How to participate
Any observations of Red Grouse will provide valuable data to the Red Grouse Survey. If you have seen or heard Red Grouse while out walking on the hills and bogs, or come across pellets or wet droppings that confirm presence of the species, please submit the details to the Red Grouse Survey. If you see evidence of Red Grouse, either pellets, dropping or feathers, please take a photograph and submit this with the sighting details as it greatly helps with the record validation process.
Confirmation of the presence of Red Grouse is sought from different levels of evidence:
Sightings of birds
Birds heard calling
Fresh wet (caecal) droppings
Pellets (fresh with white caps or old dried ones)
The Red Grouse Survey 2021-2022 is funded by National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The survey is coordinated by KRC Ecological Ltd. The National Biodiversity Data Centre is providing support with the collection of additional Red Grouse sightings from recorders submitted through Ireland’s Citizen Science Portal.