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Rare black grouse making a comeback thanks to warm summer
3:19pm Friday 23rd August 2013 in News
A RARE breed of bird is making a comeback thanks to this year’s warm summer.
The black grouse, once common across much of England but now confined to the upland moors of Northumberland, County Durham, Cumbria and North Yorkshire, has enjoyed a record-breaking breeding season this year.
Experts say the success is down to the warm, dry conditions in June, which created an abundance of insects for the young chicks.
The annual breeding count has revealed that each hen has produced more than four chicks on average and some were spotted with 10 or 11 young.
Dr Phil Warren, specialist with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust said: "This is all in stark contrast to last year when breeding productivity was appalling and one sample of 35 hens found only raised seven chicks between them.
"Last year it was cold and wet and this year it has been warm and dry. Warm dry conditions mean an abundance of insects such as sawfly larvae which young chicks depend on when they first hatch".
He added: "This bumper breeding is extremely encouraging".
Numbers of the red-listed bird have declined as a result of a number of threats including habitat loss and increasingly intensive agriculture.
Populations dropped to their lowest recorded levels following two extremely wet summers and the hardest winter for more than 30 years in 2009/2010, but this good breeding year is a much-needed boost for the species.
The higher numbers also mean conservationists will work to widen the birds’ range in the Yorkshire Dales by moving young males to specially selected release areas.
The count, which has been conducted annually for 25 years, found that each hen produced an average of 4.4 chicks, up from an average of 1.2 chicks per hen in previous years.
Dr Warren said that in England 95 per cent of remaining black grouse were found in areas associated with grouse moors, which are managed for red grouse shoots.
Measures to keep down predators and improve habitat have helped black grouse survive and enabled them to take advantage of this year’s good weather.
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