Grouse and humans

The courtship display of the male black grouse has long fascinated humans and many traditional dances mimic the lekking display. For example the "Reel of the Black Cock" or Ruidhle nan Coileach Dhubha is a Scottish dance from the Outer Hebridies which mimics the lekking display. Male dancers also hold their forearms upwards, mimicing the lyre of the male grouse. The film footage below shows the "Reel of the Black Cock" being performed at Blair Atholl in Perthshire, with kind thanks to James Rattray for permission to embed this footage.

Black grouse are also common symbols in heraldry. Black grouse, often known as moor cocks, were associated with the law or legal profession. Though the term moor cock can also mean other grouse species such as red grouse, older heraldic symbols show the distinctive lyre shaped-tail of a black grouse. Many regions also use black grouse in coats of arms, often as symbols of nature and the surrounding forests.

Coat of arms of Königsmoor and the Coat of Arms of Tuusniemi

Since Victorian times, the lyre tail feathers been popular adornments for hats worn with Scottish Highland Dress. Most commonly associated with Glengarry and Balmoral or Tam O'Shanter caps, they still continue to be worn by pipers of civilian and military pipe bands. Since 1904, all ranks of the Royal Scots and King's Own Scottish Borderers have worn them in their full-dress headgear and that tradition is carried on in the dress glengarries of the current Scottish-super regiment, The Royal Regiment of Scotland. The Bersaglieri of the Italian army, wear grouse feathers on their helmets, but these come capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), not black grouse.

Currently, black grouse provide a wonderful spectacle for bird-watchers and wildlife photographers with their lekking displays.

Grouse and hunting

Most importantly, the black grouse has been prized as a game bird. Annual bags For Russia the annual hunting bag of black grouse has been estimated as 120,000 in the early 1990s (Flint 1995, Grabuzov 1995); more recent bag records are not available. In Finland, grouse bag vary between 100,000 to 200,000 per annum

Grouse hunting scenes

Black grouse and modern culture

Black grouse are not widely used in modern culture. The exception is Black Grouse Whiskey, part of the Famous Grouse whiskey range. The black grouse is used to symbolise the dark, peat-smoked whiskey flavour, further increased by a limited additon "Alpha" addition. Similarly, the Allendale black grouse is a type of bitter from England. Black grouse images, both photos and drawings are often used on stamps from across the world.

stamps (392K)