The UK’s leading game bird with its main Cumbria home found in the northern Pennines. Scarce in central high fells of Cumbria with a few found on the moors of the coastal plain. Population of breeding pairs in Cumbria estimated to be 2,500 – 3,000 in 2001.
Habitat – extensive heather moorland away from trees, also in areas of upland bog and rough grazing
Appearance – 37-42cm. Plump with a small head, they live in groups known as coveys
Voice – loud and gruff “go-back, go-back”, alarm call “kwok-kok-kok.
Food – vegetarian diet especially heather shoots & other moorland plants, invertebrates, beetles, crane flies.
Population changes / conservation – protected by Game Act. Cumbrian population fell by 36% from mid 20th century. Loss of heather through overgrazing and afforestation caused fall in numbers, also affected by periodic infestation of parasitic worms. Agricultural conservation schemes to enhance heather moorland are helping with survival of grouse.