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The black grouse, or Tetrao tetrix, is a large game bird that is about the size of a chicken. Males are about 19-23 inches (49-58 cm) in length when measured from beak to tail, weigh about 2.8 pounds (1.25 kg) and have a wingspan of approximately 31 inches (80 cm). A female black grouse is somewhat smaller and is about 16-18 inches (40-45 cm) long, with a wingspan of roughly 26 inches (65 cm) and a weight of about 2 pounds (950 g). The male is a distinctive shiny blue-black color with a red comb, tail feathers that curve outwardly like a lyre and a white stripe on its wings that can be seen when it is flying. Females are a mottled grayish-brown color, which is a good camouflage and keeps them from being easily seen when feeding or nesting on the ground.
Geographically, the black grouse inhabits the northern regions of Europe and Asia. This bird can be found from the southeastern parts of Siberia to Great Britain. Colonies of black grouse can be found as far south as North Korea and Kyrgyzstan; the Arctic areas of Norway mark the northernmost extent of its range. In the countries of central and western Europe, however, populations are very dispersed and fragmented, with only isolated remnants in Holland, Belgium, France and Germany. No black grouse are found in Ireland, and the population in Great Britain is declining and has disappeared from many areas.
For habitat, the black grouse needs an area with mixed terrain and landscapes. Grouse have different needs at different times of the year and do not travel far, so these birds prefer locales where areas of grassland, moorland, bogs and woodland meet. As people have encroached upon their habitat, black grouse have adapted somewhat and might also inhabit other areas where there is enough dense vegetation for nesting, roosting and protection.
This ground bird relies almost entirely on plants for food. In winter, it eats mainly the buds, berries and needles of trees. In spring, though, the shoots and green parts of plants are a mainstay. Plant seeds and berries are eaten in summer and fall.
Breeding season lasts from roughly early April to middle or late May. Black grouse do not form pair bonds, and the male has nothing to do with the care of the chicks. The female builds the nest and lays six to 11 eggs that hatch in about 25 days.
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