, Volume 168, Issue 1, pp 73–81 | Cite as

The anatomy of population change in a black grouse population 1992–2008

  • Matthew GearyEmail author
  • Alan H. Fielding
  • Stuart J. Marsden
Population ecology - Original Paper


We interrogate an 18-year-long dataset containing counts of displaying male black grouse Tetrao tetrix and incidental counts of females within an 800-km2 region of Perthshire, Scotland. We examine the trends in the population and investigate how different components of the population might act as signposts of different stages of overall population change. We found statistical evidence for a decline in black grouse numbers between 1992 and 2000, and then a recovery from 2002 to 2008, but little evidence for a link between population change and weather during the decline phase. There was some evidence for a positive relationship between male and female counts. The two main components of male population size, lek size and lek frequency followed the overall population trend while it was increasing, but during the earlier decline, the two became uncoupled, to expose a complex structure within the data. During the decline, when black grouse numbers were approaching their minimum, mean lek size was actually increasing. Small leks lost proportionally more birds than did large leks, and lek longevity was positively correlated with lek size, indicating that maintenance of large leks is crucial in buffering the population against serious declines. During the decline, the spatial arrangement of leks changed, with remnant leks showing tight clustering at larger spatial scales, before expanding out to fill the large areas of unoccupied landscape during the population increase. We discuss these findings in terms of species monitoring and suggest that counts of young males may add much useful demographic information with little extra effort.


Galliformes Lek Tetrao tetrix Decline 



Thanks are due to the Perthshire Black Grouse Study Group for providing us with these data as well as completing the black grouse survey each year. Thanks also to the UK Met Office for providing the weather data used. We are grateful to Murray Grant and David Baines whose comments greatly improved the manuscript. This study was part of a PhD studentship funded through the World Pheasant Association (from the Henry Angest Foundation, Howman Charitable Foundation, Mactaggart Third Charitable Trust, PF Charitable Trust and AF Wallace Charity Trust) and the Dalton Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Geary
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alan H. Fielding
    • 1
  • Stuart J. Marsden
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Biology and Conservation EcologySchool of Science and the Environment Manchester Metropolitan UniversityManchesterUK

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