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flavour of those with most of the
feathers remaining being somewhat insipid. The food of the black-cock varies with the season ; in summer he feeds upon the tops of the heath, grass seeds, &c. ; in autumn berries of various kinds will be found in his crop, together with corn and other seeds in districts where this kind of food is plentiful; lastly, in the winter, the young shoots of the various pine trees afford these birds the means of support in the absence of corn, which is, however, sometimes supplied to them in the same way as for pheasants. Black grouse breed both with the Capercaillie and the pheasant, and even between them and the red grouse it has been asserted that in some rare instances a hybrid has been produced, one of which is figured in "The Moor and the Loch," by Mr. Colquhoun. There is also no doubt that a hybrid between the black grouse and subalpine ptarmigan has been met with, one of them being represented in Yarrell's “ British Birds,” at page 349, as a part of the fauna of Scandinavia, on the authority of M. Nileson. Black grouse are easily reared in confinement, but require plenty of space.
The RED GROUSE (Lagopus Scoticus) is peculiar to the British isles; in the higher and colder parts of which they are to be found, inhabiting wild and extensive heaths and moors. This species differs from the capercaillie and black grouse in pairing, while they are polygamous. Red grouse are found in coveys or packs throughout the winter; in the early part of which each of these is composed of the two old birds and their young ones, called a covey; but towards the latter part of the year several of these join together, sometimes to a number greatly exceeding that of one brood, and then properly denominated a pack. The nest is formed of hay and grass, arranged in a hollow of the ground, generally under a tuft of heather. The eggs are from eight to fifteen in number, the ground colour being reddish white, closely covered with blotches of umber brown; length, one inch and three-quarters; breadth, one inch and a quarter. The laying generally begins at the end of March, and is conclnded towards the latter part of April or beginning of May. The young brood leave the rest as soon as hatched, and both the cock and hen watch them closely, taking them
into those parts of the moor where their food is near the ground. The young birds feed on the shoots of the ling and fine leaves of the heather, together with the leaves and berries of the fine-leaved wortle. Both old and young will take grain or seeds of any of the grass tribe when they meet with them, in addition to the food which I have already alluded to, and which forms their regular diet. The general characters of the red grouse are as follows:-Bill very short, and clothed at the base with feathers; upper mandible convex, and bent down at the point; eyebrows naked; wings short, concave, with the third and fourth feathers the longest; tail square at the end in most cases; legs and feet completely feathered; hind toe very short, and barely touching the ground with the tip of the nail. There is a great difference in the size and also in the plumage of grouse, according to the district in which they are found. more or less marked with brown, white, and black, but the shades of these, and consequently the predominating colour, will vary from a dark to a light brown. Mr. Yarrell thus minutely describes a male bird in his first year's plumage, killed in December:-Beak black; irides hazel, with a crescentic patch of vermilion-red skin over the eye, fringed at its upper free edges; head and neck reddish brown, more rufous than any other part of the bird; back, wing, and tail coverts chesnut brown, barred transversely and speckled with black; distributed among the plumage are several feathers in which the ground colour is of a bright yellowish brown; all the quill feathers dark umber brown; the secondaries and the tertials edged on the outside, and freckled with lighter brown; the tail of eighteen feathers—the seven on each outside dark umber brown, the four middle feathers chesnut brown, barred with black; on the breast the plumage is darker than on the sides, almost black, and tipped with white; the chesnut-brown feathers on the sides, flanks, belly, vent, and under tail coverts, tipped with white; legs and toes covered with short greyish-white feathers; claws long, bluish-brown colour at the base, nearly white at the end. The old male has many of the body-feathers tipped with yellow, and the red colour is of a lighter tint. Sometimes grouse are met with of a cream colour, and of all intermediate shades. The whole length of the cock is about sixteen inches on the average, and his weight about twenty-four ounces and a half. The hen is smaller, averaging in weight about twenty-three ounces. The patch of naked skin over the eye is also smaller. The red and brown tints are likewise lighter in colour, and the plumage is more variegated. In the summer, all the feathers of the upper part of the head and neck are a yellowish chesnut with a few black spots; those of the lower neck, breast, back, wing, and tail coverts, are brown, transversely barred with black and tipped with yellow. Red grouse have been bred in aviaries, and in this way they may be brought up in considerable numbers, but they are difficult birds to rear, and the plan is not a profitable one. Although usually pairing,
, there is reliable evidence that a single cock has been seen to mate with two hens in several instances.
The PTARMIGAN (Lagopus albus) is the smallest of the grouse found in this country, and is now confined to the tops of the high ranges of hills in the northern parts of Scotland and also in the Hebrides and Orkneys. In Ireland and Wales it is not known. On the Continent of Europe it is met with on most of the elevated mountain ranges, and its range extends to Greenland and the most northerly parts of North America. In Norway another species (Lagopus subalpinus) is often confounded with it; but this is a larger bird, and inhabits a higher range of the mountains. The male ptarmigan of Scotland has the following changes of plumage : In winter, the beak, lore, and a small patch behind the eye, are black; irides yellowish brown; over the eye a naked red skin; almost all the plumage pure white; shafts of the primary quill feathers black; the four upper tail feathers white, the fourteen other tail feathers black tipped with white; legs and toes white; the claws black. The male in May and November has the throat white; head and neck mottled with blackish and speckled-grey feathers, a few others with narrow bars of black and ochrous yellow; the white feathers assuming the greyish black by a change of the colour, as particularly observed in progress in a male bird in March, when the few feathers which were then growing were all greyish black; the breast, back, and upper tail feathers
nearly uniform speckled grey; the fourteen under tail feathers black; the wings, the under surface of the body, and the legs white. The length of a male is fifteen inches and a quarter; the female is smaller than the male, and is pure white in winter, like the male already described, except that she has no short black feather before or behind the eye. By the end of April, the female has assumed almost as much mixture of feather (barred black and ochrous yellow with white tips) as the male bird has of those which are grey. According to Yarrell, a female bird from Scotland bought in the London market, during the second week in May, 1839, was much further advanced, having the whole of the head, neck, back, rump, upper tail coverts, upper part of the breast and sides, covered with feathers of greyish black and yellow in bars, many of them still retaining the white line (see
“ Yarrell's British Birds," vol. ii. p. 367.) In September the upper surface has become of a mottled grey, and the under patches have some grey feathers among the yellow ones; as the autumn advances, the yellow feathers are shed, and then the grey ones, leaving the plumage of a pure white. The length of the female averages fourteen inches and a half. Like the red grouse, the ptarmigan pairs early in spring, and the hen lays eight to ten eggs, generally on the bare ground, among large stones. The eggs are yellowish white, sparingly blotched and spotted with dark brown, length one inch and twothirds, breadth one inch and a sixth. The ptarmigan feeds on the berries, seeds, and young shoots of alpine plants. The brood or family keep together till the depth of winter, when they break up. They have never been reared in confinement; but in a wild state they are not so difficult to approach as the red grouse, sometimes appearing to be actually so dull and stupid, that, as Mr. Colquhoun asserts, by throwing a stone at the pack they may frequently be made to crouch on the ground till they are walked up. According to Mr. Macgillivray, “ When squatted, they utter no sound, their object being to conceal themselves; and if you discover the one from which the cry has proceeded, you generally find him on the top of a stone, ready to spring off the moment you show any sign of hostility. If you throw a stone at him, he rises, utters his call, and is immediately joined by all the
individuals around, which, to your surprise, if it be your first rencontre, you see spring up one by one from the bare ground. They generally fly off in a loose body, with a direct and moderately rapid fight, resembling, but lighter than, that of the red grouse, and settle on a distant part of the mountain, or betake themselves to one of the neighbouring summits, perhaps more than a mile distant. In winter several families of ptarmigan associate, forming a flock, and fifty in number have been seen together.”
The capercaillie and the ptarmigan are both so rare that it is scarcely necessary to allude to the ground upon which they are found, beyond the slight notice which has been given of each in the several descriptions of these birds. But red grouse and black game constitute the staple of the grouse shooter's amusement, and the nature of the ground which they frequent should be well known before the young sportsman commits himself to this kind of work. With the exception of deerstalking, there is no species of British sport which so thoroughly tasks the energies of man as grouse shooting, if it is pursued with energy and spirit; for though it may be possible for the lover of nature to saunter away a morning among the beautiful scenery which is generally displayed to his gaze, without any great fatigue, yet if the bag is to be filled, he must keep up a steady, inflagging walk over hill and dale, and generally over heather or rough ground of some kind, which will make him lift his legs higher than is convenient to muscles uneducated to the task. Now and then, also, he must expect to sink ankle deep, or a little deeper perhaps, in a bog, which species of ground is to be found on almost every moor. Indeed, it is from the peaty and naturally poor nature of the soil that those extensive districts known as “moors” are not cultivated in the ordinary way; grasses of a very poor description, heather, and ling being their chief products, as far as the vegetable kingdom is concerned. Independently of game, sheep and cattle are the only stock which are fed on these moors, and the proportion of these per acre is very small as compared even