Birds – Black Grouse

Of the remaining genera of Grouse none have the toes feathered, but instead all have the sides of the toes pectinated in winter, with the points deciduous in summer. Otherwise not far removed from those last considered are the Black Grouse (Lyrurus) of the northern portions of the Old World, in which the tarsi are entirely feathered and the tail of eighteen feathers has the outer pairs very much longer than the middle pair, and in the male these are curved outwards at the extremity. Only three or four species are known, the most important being the common Black Grouse (L. tetrix) of Europe and northern and central Asia. The full-grown male is about twenty-three inches long, while the length of the female is only about seventeen inches. The general color of the male is black with violet reflections, relieved by a broad white wing-band and white-tipped secondaries. There is also a white spot behind the eye, and the naked skin and wattle above the eye are scarlet. The female, often called the Gray-hen, is mostly rufous, barred with black above, and dusky brown barred with red and whitish below. The true home of this species is in the birch and pine forests, but it is also found on the open moors and fields, especially grain and stubble fields, often at some distance from cover. The old birds feed largely on grain, seeds, berries, and buds, while the young are fed mainly on the larvae of ants and other insects. The male Black Grouse is polygamous, that is, associates with several females, and for their edification often goes through many curious antics, such as strutting to and fro with trailing wings and expanded tail. If a rival male appears, a fierce conflict is sure to ensue, this lasting until both are thoroughly exhausted or one or the other vanquished. The nest is usually a slight affair, placed under a bush or bunch of weeds and grass, and the eggs, six to ten in number, are yellowish white with rich brown spots. The female per-forms the entire task of incubating the eggs and rearing the young, the males betaking themselves away as soon as incubation commences. The other best-known species is the Caucasian Black Grouse (L. mlokosiewiczi), which is found only in the Caucasian Mountains; it is a smaller bird and has the plumage black throughout.