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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Saturday, 11 May, 2002, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
Bird lovers receive dawn call
Grouse chick
Grouse chicks face many hazards
Bird watchers from across the UK will converge on north Wales this weekend to see the mating display of one of Wales' most endangered and elusive birds.

Black grouse are normally secretive birds, but on spring days between 0300 and 0400BST, the males gather at communal sites.

Black grouse
Black grouse have a distinctive mating ritual

At dawn, they will perform their mating displays in Denbighshire - one of the few sites in Wales - to attract as many females as possible.

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 the 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.

Native woodlands

Piercing shrieks that are part of the display can be heard from 2km away.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds(RSPB) have organised an early morning walk through the forest at Clocaenog for nature lovers to witness the display.

A spokeswoman for the RSPB said: "Over the last three years, RSPB Cymru has worked closely with Forest Enterprise and the Countryside Council for Wales to save the black grouse in Wales."

Black grouse live on moorland and in forestry and native woodlands - mostly in upland areas.

They have been witnessed in Wales and northern Scotland.

It is currently estimated that there are around 180 pairs in Wales.

More news from north east Wales
See also:

24 Aug 99 | Sci/Tech
Black grouse numbers grow
24 Jul 01 | UK
Numbers up for game birds
03 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
New hope for birds of prey
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