Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Black grouse numbers grow
Chicks face many hazards
By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby
There is new hope for a striking bird which has been in serious decline across the United Kingdom for most of this century.
But in upper Teesdale, in the north Pennines, the news is better. The numbers of black grouse there have increased by a third in just three years.
The recovery has been achieved by co-operation between local people and several conservation groups, including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and English Nature.
Control of predators
On 25 farms and estates, sheep grazing has been restricted, heather moorland regenerated, and predators strictly controlled. Seeds and insects which the growing chicks need have been encouraged.
To pay for the further work, the RSPB wants the UK Government to channel money away from grants that pay farmers for increased production into schemes that encourage them to protect the environment. There are also demands for it to legislate in the next session of Parliament to give better protection to endangered species and habitats.
The threats to the black grouse include:
The black grouse is one of only three breeding species in the UK (the others are the capercaillie and the ruff) to take part in a strange display ritual called the lek. Leks usually involve five to 10 male birds, but may number up to 30.
The birds crouch low and fluff up their white undertail coverts, raise their lyre-shaped tails, inflate their necks and jump in the air, making a soft, bubbling call.
The dominant males in a lek manage to mate most often with the visiting hens.