What is my name?
British Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus Scoticus)
What are my special features?
The Red Grouse is a medium sized (single portion) game bird. From both a taste and a shooting perspective it is widely considered to be the finest game bird in the world.
The plumage is reddish-brown (less red in the females) with a black tail and white legs. Distinctive physical features include a plump shape and white eyelids with a bright pinkish-red comb above. It is the only game bird to have feathers on its legs and feet, which help protect it in the cold and snow. Another unique feature is that unlike other sub-species of grouse – the plumage of the British Red grouse does not turn white in winter.
The flesh is dark in colour and due to the diet being around 95% heather, the grouse has an exceptionally rich flavour and is an acquired taste.
What is my history?
Although it is a sub-species of the Willow Grouse, a bird found throughout much of the Arctic tundra, the Red Grouse is native to the British Isles. It has survived only on keepered heather moorlands.
Some Red Grouse are found in Ireland (although some consider Irish Grouse a separate species) and also in Wales. The main distribution is in the North of England and Scotland. Red Grouse thrive only where they are shot and without shooting, the heather moorland would revert to the scrubland of the 18th Century.
Why am I forgotten?
The heather moorlands on which the Red Grouse lives are expensive to maintain and large areas have been lost to cheaper land use, making heather moorland now rarer than rainforest. A small market and demand for Red Grouse also exists.
Don’t lose me…cook me!