Photo Arne Ader
Black grouse hen, or greyhen
Black grouse Teder Tetrao tetrix
The showy grouse cocks always get more attention.
We will make a small excursion into what has happened after the black grouse leks, or mating games, so popular among photographers.
In the beginning of May the grouse hen had settled down to incubate the 6-9 eggs and in early June the grouse chicks had hatched. The hen alone takes care of the offspring. The first month is the period when most accidents befall the little ones. But the decrease in the numbers of foxes and raccoon dogs has had a visibly beneficial effect on the grouse population.
On forest roads and road verges 3-4-membered grouse groups can be seen, feeding on blueberries as well as collecting gravel from the road into their crop. There are blueberries in forests in patches; where the blueberry leaves are lighter green there also appears to be berries – this too makes the grouse move around more (during summer and the berry period grouse are active on the ground). Of course in this heat berry pickers are not around in the forests to disturb the peaceful life of the grouse.
The plumage of the grouse hens is modest – the brown plumage blends well into the background of a pine forest floor. Brown and ochre colours in the back plumage together with grey and black bands and patches. On the breast some rust red, but otherwise streaked as the tail of the hen. When they rise into flight we will certainly notice the white wing streak, and the birds will not fly far from a quiet observe.
The grouse chicks have plumages similar to the females and they are not much smaller either any more by the end of July. The first adult feathers grow on the back as well as breast at six weeks old. The plumage of the little grouse ”boy”, by now a couple of months old, is a little darker on the back as well as on the breast, differing from the ”sisters”; on the wings too we can already notice black or dark brown feathers.
A pity that getting photos didn’t succeed but for an observer in the bog forests the description may be of some help.
(Estonian original published 30.07.2014)