Caucasian grouse (Tetrao mlokosiewiczi)

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Male Caucasian grouse in flight
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Caucasian grouse fact file

Caucasian grouse description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderGalliformes
FamilyPhasianidae
GenusTetrao (1)

The Caucasian grouse (Tetrao mlokosiewiczi) is one of the most elusive and least studied of all grouse species (4).

The adult male Caucasian grouse has black plumage, with a long, deeply forked, downward-curving tail and distinctive red eyebrow wattles (2) (3). The undersides of the wings are white, and can be seen in flight (5). This species is very similar in appearance to the black grouse (Tetrao tetrix), but the Caucasian grouse lacks a white wing-bar and white undertail-coverts (2) (3).

The female Caucasian grouse has grey-brown plumage, with fine, dark barring on the underparts and an almost square-ended tail (3). As with male, the female Caucasian grouse is similar in appearance to the black grouse, but has darker cheek patches, paler eyebrow stripes and finer barring (2).

The juvenile male Caucasian grouse is very similar in appearance to the female, with grey-brown plumage (3).

Also known as
Caucasian black grouse.
Size
Male head-body length: 50 - 55 cm (2)
Female head-body length: 37 - 42 cm (2)
Male weight: 820 - 1005 g (3)
Female weight: 750 - 784 g (3)
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Caucasian grouse biology

The Caucasian grouse typically forages just after daybreak and towards dusk (3). In winter, a variety of plants form the basis of its diet, including birch buds and catkins, juniper fruits, various shrub shoots and rosehips. In other seasons, the Caucasian grouse has a more diverse diet, feeding on a multitude of herbs and grasses, as well as seasonally available buds, leaves and fruit (4) (8). Arthropods are a diet staple of chicks in the first two weeks after hatching, but are rarely taken by adults (3).

The traditional leks of the male Caucasian grouse occur in spring and are carried out in open habitat away from the treeline (4). The display involves short bursts of fast-paced running, alternated with upward jumping and periods of standing still. When the males come within four to five metres of each other, they elevate their long tails and begin to walk parallel to one another (9). Although the male Caucasian grouse is almost mute, a soft whistling sound is made by the wings during display (2).

Unlike the male Caucasian grouse, the female is not mute and has a cackling call (2). In May, the female lays between two and ten eggs at a time, in a shallow ground scrape concealed by vegetation. The eggs are incubated for 20 to 25 days, and the chicks are able to fly 10 to 14 days after hatching (3).

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Caucasian grouse range

The Caucasian grouse is one of only three bird species endemic to the Greater and Lesser Caucasus mountain region (6).

The Caucasian grouse population is patchily distributed across six countries: Russia, Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran (6). The majority of this species’ range is in Russia and Georgia (4).

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Caucasian grouse habitat

The elusive Caucasian grouse inhabits treetops in the transition zone between upper montane forests and lower sub-alpine meadows, at elevations between 1,300 and 3,300 metres (7).

Open terrain close to the treeline also forms an important part of this birds’ habitat, and is used for leks in spring and feeding throughout the summer (8).

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Caucasian grouse status

The Caucasian grouse is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened

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Caucasian grouse threats

Disturbance at the Caucasian grouse’s nesting and lekking sites, largely due to deforestation, harvesting for wheat and grass, and overgrazing, have affected this species’ reproductive success (4). Habitat degradation has also fragmented the already limited distribution of the grouse, resulting in small, isolated populations. Small populations have an increased probability of extinction, due to chance events or the loss of genetic variation caused by inbreeding (10).

Illegal hunting is also an increasing threat, particularly in the Lesser Caucasus area, where road development has made grouse habitat more accessible (1).

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Caucasian grouse conservation

Research, large-scale conservation projects and educational activities are underway in Georgia and Turkey, to improve knowledge and promote awareness of the Caucasian grouse (6). Population surveys for the grouse have also begun in Azerbaijan, and a captive breeding programme is being developed in Armenia (6).

Continued fieldwork has been recommended to determine the current population status of the Caucasian grouse, identify potential threats and develop mitigation measures (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

Learn more about the conservation of this species and other birds:

Find out about conservation in the Caucasus:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Arthropods
A major grouping of animals that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Genetic variation
The variety of genes within a particular species, population or breed causing differences in morphology, physiology and behaviour.
Inbreeding
The breeding of closely related individuals. An inbred population usually has less genetic variability and this is generally disadvantageous for its long-term survival and success.
Incubated
Kept warm so that development is possible.
Leks
System of mating in which males display collectively in an area known as a lek. Males compete for the best sites within the lek and females then choose whom to mate with on the basis of the display.
Montane
Of mountains, or growing in mountains.
Undertail coverts
Small feathers concealing the bases of the larger feathers on the tail.
Wattles
Fleshy organs that hang from the bill, throat or eye of some bird species.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterstrom, D. and Grant, P.J. (2009) Collins Bird Guide Second Edition. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, London.
  3. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J. and Cabot, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  4. Storch, I. (2000) Grouse Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 2000-2004. WPA/Birdlife/SSC Grouse Specialist Group,IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK and the World Pheasant Association, Reading, UK.
  5. Firouz, E. (2005) The Complete Fauna of Iran. L.B. Tauris and Co., London.
  6. BirdLife International (June, 2011)
    http://www.birdlife.org/
  7. Baskaya, S. (2003) Distribution and principal threats to Caucasian black grouse Tetrao mlokosiewiczi in the Eastern Karadeniz Mountains in Turkey. Wildlife Biology, 9(4): 377-383.
  8. Etzold, J. (2005) Analyses of vegetation and human impacts in the habitat of the Caucasian Black Grouse Tetrao mlokosiewiczi in the Greater Caucasus/Azerbaijan. Archiv fϋr Naturschutz und Landschaftsforschung, 4: 7-37.
  9. Masoud, M. and Fanid, L.E. (2006) A Study of Caucasian black grouse Tetrao mlokosiewiczi population dispersion confined in Iran. Grouse News - Newsletter of the WPA/BirdLife/IUCN/SSC Grouse Specialist Group, 31: 5-8.
  10. Frankham, R., Ballou, J.D. and Briscoe, D.A. (2004) A Primer of Conservation Genetics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
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Image credit

Male Caucasian grouse in flight  
Male Caucasian grouse in flight

© Emin Yogurtçuoglu

Emin Yogurtçuoglu
emin.yogurtcuoglu@gmail.com
http://www.flickr.com/photos/24456266@N06/

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