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Cash bid to help `fussy' black grouse.

Landowners and conservationists are bidding for pounds 3m of lottery funds to revive the fortunes of the threatened black grouse.

The bird, known for its distinctive mating ritual, was once found across England, but now only breeds on isolated moorland between Wensleydale and the Scottish border.

Changes to the landscape combined with the black grouse's fussy breeding habits have combined to endanger its future.

But the Game Conservancy Trust is putting together a bid for Heritage Lottery cash to help the species spread and grow across Northumberland's Cheviot Hills.

Much of the money will be spent planting 100 hectares along forest edges with a new mix of shrubs and smaller trees interspersed with open spaces.

Phil Warren of the Black Grouse Recovery Project, said: "The species needs a mosaic of habitats including heather moorland, woodland edge and hay meadows to thrive."

In North Northumberland in 2002 only 105 male black grouse were recorded, almost all on the Ministry of Defence range at Otterburn and the upper parts of Kielder Forest.

Male black grouse gather daily at leks - communal breeding grounds - where they compete to mate with passing females.

The females raise the young alone and while males will return to their father's lek the female insists on finding another lek within 20 miles in search of a mate. If it can't then it may not breed.

The GCT, working with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Ministry of Defence, English Nature and Northumbrian Water, want to use the lottery cash to extend a network of leks north from Otterburn across the border by providing better breeding grounds.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 29, 2004
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