Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The European population is estimated at 1,220,000-2,040,000 calling or lekking males, which equates to 2,450,000-4,080,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms approximately 30% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 8,166,666-13,600,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. The population is therefore placed in the band 8,000,000-14,000,000 mature individuals.
The population has suffered major declines and range contractions over much of its range owing to afforestation of heathland, increased cultivation, and planting of coniferous monocultures. The species also suffers locally from over-hunting (del Hoyo et al. 1994). The European population is reported to be increasing (BirdLife International 2015).
The following information refers to the species's range in Europe. The species occupies mosaics of different habitats requiring open, sparsely vegetated land for display, good shelter for roosting and sometimes shrubs or trees for feeding above the snow in winter (Tucker and Heath 1994). In northern Europe it prefers deciduous or mixed forests to coniferous forest and spare, young stands to older denser ones. In southern European mountains such as the Alps it mainly uses moderately dense forest of spruce and fir, or larch (de Juana and Boesman 2013). It uses logged clearings in boreal forest, but such successional stages are ephemeral, necessitating local shifts in distribution. In western and central Europe the species uses heathland and meadows and in the central European mountains it uses areas around the treeline (Tucker and Heath 1994). It is also known to use bogs and areas of marginal cultivation. It lays between May and June. Laying an average of eight eggs (de Juana and Boesman 2013). Males form leks at traditional sites (Tucker and Heath 1994). The nest is a shallow scrape usually lined with some plant material and feathers. In many places it feeds on birch catkins and buds, shoots, needles, cones and male flowers of conifers in winter. In areas with less snow cover it uses more shrubs and grasses. In spring it switches to berries, stems and shoots of shrubs. It is largely sedentary although eruptive in some northern areas, with flocks moving hundreds of kilometres (de Juana and Boesman 2013).
In western and central Europe, habitat fragmentation and destruction are serious threats (Tucker and Heath 1994), which occur mostly through increased cultivation, afforestation of heathlands, removal of birch stands and the planting of coniferous monocultures (de Juana and Boesman 2013). Intensive grazing of sheep is replacing traditional grazing that normally helped maintain suitable habitat, leading to the destruction of birch (Betula) scrub and heather moorland. In central Europe, heathland is being transformed into grassland by eutrophication through airborne nitrogen deposition (Tucker and Heath 1994). Related to these large-scale land use changes, predation by mammalian and avian predators appears to have increased. (Storch 2007). On a local scale, other threats include hunting and disturbance at leks. In the Italian Alps, stress hormone levels have been shown to be increased by disturbance from snow sport, which may reduce resistance to disease (de Juana and Boesman 2013). Collisions with high-tension powerlines may kill many birds in Scandinavia and in Scotland, collisions with deer fences may be a problem. It is also thought long-term climate trends may partly explain recent declines (Storch 2007).
Conservation Actions Underway
EU Birds Directive Annex I, II and III. In general the species is fully and effectively protected in western and central Europe. In other European countries (e.g., Austria, Italy and France) hunting is strictly regulated. Only a small proportion of the species's range in Europe falls within protected areas, most of which are likely too small to sustain a viable population, however locally reserves are seen as essential for the conservation of this species. In areas where it is hunted, regular monitoring occurs to plan harvests and in areas with small remnant populations. In some countries, such as Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, campaigns to limit disturbance have been initiated. These generally use public awareness campaigns, re-routing of hiking and skiing trails and the closure of core areas to the public. The release of captive bred birds to supplement wild populations has been attempted several times with little success (Storch 2007).
Conservation Actions Proposed
The following proposed conservation actions refer to the species's European range only. The preservation and restoration of suitable habitat through habitat management is needed. The integration of land-use practices and conservation measures is essential. In addition maintaining and restoring spatial connectivity between populations is required. In areas where illegal hunting occurs, better law enforcement is needed. Monitoring should be continued and undertaken in areas where the species is endangered in order to establish population trends and effectiveness of management plans (Storch 2007). Further research is required (Tucker and Heath 1994, Storch 2007) and should investigate the impacts of hunting, habitat fragmentation and patch isolation, dispersal rates and distances, large-scale habitat relationships and population dynamics. Management experimentation is needed (Storch 2007).
Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J.
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Lyrurus tetrix. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 14/11/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 14/11/2019.