The Red Grouse is a very scarce species in Kerry, with loss of heather moorland habitat to forestry, fires and drainage, compounded by hunting pressure the main causes of a widespread decline. They can however survive for many years in very low densities in areas of suitable habitat.
Male (left) and female Red Grouse, Stack's Mountains, 4th July 2015 (Michael O'Clery).
(Click on the photo for a closer look)
Female Red Grouse, Stack's Mountains, 4th July 2015 (Michael O'Clery).
Male Red Grouse, Stack's Mountains, 4th July 2015 (Michael O'Clery).
The Irish race of Red Grouse, despite the name, is also found in parts of Western Scotland, and is generally paler and more buff-coloured, which is believed to have evolved to camouflage them better on bogs with a higher component of grasses.
This coloration is readily apparent when you compare the birds above, from the Stack's Mountains today, to the male and female below, photographed in Central Scotland last April. There is a lot of individual variation however, and the Irish Red Grouse gene pool has been somewhat diluted by many introductions of Scottish race birds by gun clubs down through the years. Whether it remains a valid sub-species is open to debate but is a question well worth resolving, as Irish grouse, regardless of race, are in serious decline throughout the country and surely deserving of protection.
Male Red Grouse, Cairngorms, Scotland, April 2015 (Michael O'Clery).
Female Red Grouse, Cairngorms, Scotland, April 2015 (Michael O'Clery).