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The Red Grouse

Written by: Doug
Published: 11th August 2016, last updated: 27th January 2020


Friday (12 August) marks the official beginning of grouse hunting season in the UK. As many of you may know, we are not big fans of the “sport” and have been promoting banning driven grouse shooting as per the petition here. We’d love for you to help us achieve our goal of banning this cruel and out of date activity and encourage you to sign.

As we’ve done in the past, we like to share profiles of the animals and species we help to conserve in our nature reserves, but, as the occasion calls for it, this time we’d like to put the spotlight on an animal we are hoping to protect all over the UK – the Red Grouse.

Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus scotica)


The Red Grouse, a medium sized member of the willow grouse family, can be found in various moorland areas of Scotland, Northern England and Ireland. There is also an introduced population in Dartmoor, which were brought in by the Victorians for sport back in the late 1800s.


They consume a very heather-heavy diet, which is why they make their homes on the moorlands around the UK. They will also eat berries, the occasional insect, and various cereal crops.


They differ from other members of the grouse family by having a reddish brown plumage with a black tail and white legs. The males have prominent dark red areas above their eyes (called wattles) which distinguish them from females whose are generally lighter. They are also considered to have a quite distinctive call which some say sounds a bit like they are shouting go-back-go-back-go-back-go-back!


Current estimations of population of the Red Grouse are approximately 250,000 pairs. Research into the species over the years has shown long-term declines in the Red Grouse population, and much speculation has been put on the activities of sport shooting throughout the moorlands during “grouse season” from the 12 August (also know as the ‘Glorious Twelfth’) to 10 December every year. This, combined with a slow deterioration of their habitat, an increase in predators such as foxes and crows in these areas, and diseases like Strongylosis (worm) and viruses carried in ticks have led to this population drop.

5 Facts about the Red Grouse

  1. The Red Grouse may be the most Famous Grouse of all, being used in the logo for the 320px-The_Famous_Grouse_Finestpopular blended Scotch whisky.
  2. They have been the subject of much controversy regarding Driven Grouse Shooting in the UK, of which Highland Titles have encouraged strong opposition.
  3. They are one of the only grouse that do not grow a white winter coat.
  4. No other bird makes more use of heather. Not only do they eat the sprouts of new heather, Red Grouse also use it for shelter, protection and nesting.
  5. Chicks can fly only 13 days after they’ve hatched and are fully grown after 35 days.

Now that you’ve learned a bit more about these somewhat controversial birds, we encourage you to sign and share the petition to ban driven grouse shooting in the UK and put an end to the unnatural treatment the Red Grouse experience year after year.

About the author

Written by: Doug

Comments on this post

  • Alex bruce
    22/08/16 - 21:37

    Don’t understand why you would want to do this. As a 14 year old I started helping the local gamekeeper. Part of my job was to help with beating etc. And I never saw many birds killed. The shooters had to be highly skilled to take a grouse. If this was to be stopped then the moors would fall into disrepair and the grouse would starve. The moors are maintained by the estates to help them if you stop this I can see nothing but problems. These ideas usually come from people who have no idea what goes on in the countryside.

  • Terry Davies
    23/08/16 - 11:47

    We need to stop driven Grouse shooting to protect our moorlands & prevent corrupt Landowners & their gamekeepers from targeting Birds of prey that are already endangered.Higher penaties including prison for keepers & landowners breaking the rules.

  • Maria Ahl
    24/08/16 - 18:25

    Leave the wild beings in the wild, there are plenty of every kind of meat being farmed for you

  • Deborah Moynihan
    25/08/16 - 07:38

    Grouse shooting needs to be band we need to protect these lovely creatures they shouldn’t be used for gamekeepers and landowners to have fun killing them ban it and protect our wildlife

  • David Jack
    25/08/16 - 12:19

    Alex Bruce, in my experience the people who go shooting have no idea what goes on in the countryside with the majority being hooray henry’s from cities. My main issue with Driven Grouse Shooting is it is a canned hunt which has far too many knock on and damaging consequences for the land to be justified. Far too much of Scotland’s land is used for a past time which entertains a handful. As for the moors falling into a disrepair – God forbid that we might let nature do it’s job! The same old argument that it is part of the countryside is disingenuous and yes whilst it creates some employment, in the bigger scheme of things, these are mostly poorly paid and subsidized jobs.

  • Debbie sweeney
    27/08/16 - 09:19

    Please ban this horrible shoot it’s so cruel Theodor grouse don’t stand a chance and there’s not alot of grouse left now why do people get pleasure out of killing poor little birds please ban it

  • Brenda street
    28/08/16 - 22:26

    Lets put an end to this cruel sport

  • Barbara maltas
    29/08/16 - 13:11

    Killing animals is not a sport

  • jill parry
    30/08/16 - 00:55

    Stop now….grouse,foxes,birds of prey,ferrets,stoats,etc..They all have more right to this planet than you hunters have .. and are part of our WORLD but because you are all money oriented idiots….You kill them 🙁 IDIOTS..DO NOT ALLOW FRACKING..IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU ARE RICH…..YOU DRINK POISONED WATER YOU ARE DEAD.. EVERYTHING …WHISKY, SALMON,ABERDEEN ANGUS BEEF NEEDS GOOD CLEAN WATER…

  • george gray
    30/08/16 - 19:17

    if you don’t need it for food then LEAVEit alone !!!!! this is a so called sport of the RICH !!

  • Catherine dryden
    31/08/16 - 03:09

    Let these beautiful birds live in peace and tranquillity

  • Nancy
    31/08/16 - 07:28

    Leave Scotlands wild life alone , you want to shoot go south …

  • Linda Mayne
    02/09/16 - 13:12

    Killing any living creature in the name of “sport” is abhorrent.

  • Christopher Todd
    01/05/17 - 14:09

    Humans try to rule the world and think they are something like god. The only thing we do is destroy. Nature knows much better what it needs without us interfering. So leave the birds and other creatures to themself. They can regulate it. We should respect nature as it is ! We are only guests and just part of it for the moment.

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