Other threats to grouse populations

Human disturbance

Tourism and leisure activities such as hiking, skiing, mountain-biking, etc. may pose serious threats to local black grouse populations. Many black grouse wintering habitats overlap with popular skiing areas, particularly in the mountainous regions of western and central Europe (see e.g. Meile 1982, Zeitler & Glänzer 1998, Zeitler 2001). Studies have shown that grouse (and other birds) are more stressed in areas with higher disturbance and the flushing from snow burrows in winter is energetically costly (Arlettaz et al. 2007).

Collisions with fences, wires and wind farms

Deer fence with wooden battensIn Scotland, black grouse and capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) populations are threatened in part by birds being killed in collision with deer fences (Baines and Summers 1997). Fences can be marked with wooden battens to make them more visible to flying birds. In Scandinavia, collisions with high-tension power lines may kill significant numbers of black grouse, e.g. > 26,000 deaths annually have been estimated in Norway (Beveanger 1995), whilst grouse collisions with ski car cables in Apline regions is a threat to small populations (Miquet 1990).

A windfarmMore recently, concern has been expressed that wind farms could impact grouse populations, either through direct mortality or through increased disturbance. Recent work has monitored a decline in a black grouse population after a wind farm was built in Austria (Zeiler & Grunschachner-Berger 2009). Future work should keep monitoring the impact of wind farms on grouse populations.


Arlettaz, R., Patthey, P., Baltic, M., Leu, T., Schaub, M., Palme, R. & Jenni-Eiermann, S. (2007) Spreading free-riding snow sports represent a novel serious threat for wildlife. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 274, 1219–1224.

Baines, D. & Summers, R.W. (1997)Assessment of bird collisions with deer fences in Scottish forests. Journal of Applied Ecology, 34, 941-948.

Bevanger, K. (1995) Estimates and population consequences of tetraonid mortality caused by collisions with high tension power lines in Norway. Journal of Applied Ecology, 32, 745-753.

Meile, P. (1982) Skiing facilities in alpine habitat of black grouse and capercaillie. Proceedings of the International Grouse Symposium, 2, 87-92.

Miquet, A. (1990) Mortality in black grouse Tetrao tetrix due to elevated cables. Biological Conservation, 54, 349-355.

Zeitler, A. (2001) Human disturbance, behaviour and spatial distribution of black grouse in skiing areas in the Bavarian Alps. Cahiers d’Ethologie, 20, 1-22.

Zeitler, A. & Glänzer, U. (1998) Skiing and grouse in the Bavarian Alps. Grouse News, 15, 8-12.