The Hazel Hen / Hazel Grouse

The Hazel Hen is a very shy bird that is also called the Hazel Grouse, they share the same Latin name of Tetrastes bonasia and you only have to see a quick glimpse of them to see they are from the Grouse family.  They are quite small and are between 35 and 40cm ion length and are very hard to spot because of their excellent camouflaged pattern which is even effective when the forest floor is cover in winter snow.

They have quite a large range which stretches from the Scandinavian countries of Europe through Asia as far as Japan.   Generally their range is a long West to East Strip across the tundra forest, but there are also populations of these small Grouse in France and Germany. Like many species, the populations of Hazel grouse are in decline because of habitat loss, the exact world population size is not known, but is estimated to be between 15,000,000 and 25,000,000 pairs.  They have a main diet of plants, but also eat small insects.


I have been fortunate to have seen Hazel Hen close enough to photograph on two separate occasions, both times in the same forest in North Eastern Finland.

The first time was one June whilst we were had spent a few days photographing European Brown Bears and were out looking for a variety of summer species including Owls, Divers, Osprey and flowers when we were told about a Hazel Hen sitting on a very well camouflaged nest.  The image below was one of a few images that were taken very carefully so we did not disturb the bird.

The second time was the following April, where we had again been photographing European Brown Bears in the snow when were given the opportunity to photograph a male that was in the same forest area.  He proved very elusive to find and it took over an hour to find him.