Rare black grouse have had a record-breaking breeding season thanks to the warm, dry conditions in June, experts said.
The annual breeding count of the bird in England has revealed that each hen has produced more than four chicks on average, almost four times the numbers of young reared in previous years.
Most hens managed to rear chicks and some were spotted with 10 or 11 young, which is “quite exceptional” for black grouse, according to Dr Phil Warren, a specialist in the species with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).
“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.”
The difference in breeding productivity between this year and last year is down to the weather conditions in June when the chicks hatch, he said.
“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 and we expect to see this reflected in an increase in males attending leks next spring.”
Black grouse were once common in most of southern England but are now found only in uplands of Northumberland, County Durham, Cumbria and North Yorkshire.