Habitat use by Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix in a mixed moorland-forest landscape in Scotland and implications for a national afforestation strategy
Capsule Long-term conservation of Black Grouse in Scotland may rely upon the retention of sufficiently large and well-connected patches of moorland and a diversity of adjacent forest types.
Aims To study Black Grouse habitat use within a moorland-forest mosaic and make recommendations for their conservation in more heavily forested future landscapes.
Methods We carried out radio-telemetry on Black Grouse over three years to investigate individual habitat use. We used compositional analyses to investigate habitat selection in different seasons. We examined whether this matched previous population-level patterns and whether it differed between males and females. We used logistic regression to examine whether movements into large-scale commercial forests were restricted to the periphery relative to random locations.
Results Males used seasonal ranges of >200 ha and females >70 ha. Birds selected strongly for moorland throughout the year, matching other population-level studies. Underlying this, however, males and females differed in their use of forests, with males associated with broadleaf woodland, while females preferred new native pinewoods in spring–summer or commercial conifer forests in autumn–winter. Use of commercial plantation forests was generally limited to their periphery, particularly to within <300 m of the forest edge.
Conclusion When planning afforestation, moorland patches of at least 200 ha must be retained and their fragmentation should be minimized, particularly as young forests may provide breeding habitat over a limited duration. However, mature forests also form an important habitat component and, at a local scale, both coniferous and broadleaf forests should be made available to provide resources for both sexes. Some management decisions will therefore need to be made at the landscape-scale to balance broad national targets of afforestation with individual landowner/contractor decisions.