Review of status, affiliations and mission

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Grouse Specialist Group Workshop

Minutes of meeting at 10th IGS, Luchon, France, September 2005


  1. Grouse Specialist Group – review of status, affiliations and mission

  1. Report on activities 2002-2005

  1. Website

  1. Grouse News

  1. 11th IGS in 2008 and 12th IGS in 2011

  1. Major GSG tasks for 2005 – 2008

  1. New teams and tasks within the GSG

  1. IUCN Red Data Species lists

Minutes of meeting

1. Grouse Specialist Group – review of status, affiliations and mission
The Grouse Specialist Group (GSG) is a global voluntary network of persons involved professionally in the study, conservation, and sustainable management of grouse. The group is particularly concerned with the conservation of threatened grouse species and subspecies, and in seeking ways to maintain viable populations in their natural habitats.
The GSG collects and assesses information, identifies conservation priorities, promotes research and conservation, and gives advice on grouse and their habitats. The GSG is headed by a chairman and a core committee and operates according to IUCN principles. Its members are persons actively involved in research and/or conservation of grouse according to professional standards.
The GSG operates under a Memorandum of Understanding between IUCN and the WPA (World Pheasant Association) and with which BirdLife International agreed. It is therefore named the:
WPA/BirdLife/IUCN/SSC Grouse Specialist Group.
The convention is to list the parent organisations in the reverse order to ensure consistency of apearance to the outside world. The role of BirdLife (and whether its name is listed) is being discussed at the moment – the key issue is that BirdLife now operates geographically with country partners and not taxonomically. Under this MoU, the SSC Chair’s office and WPA’s Director are the first points of contact with IUCN for the Galliformes SGs.
The group’s mission is consistent with the aims of all three of its parent bodies:
The GSG is committed to understanding and securing viable populations of all species and subspecies of grouse in their natural habitats.
The GSG was officially founded in 1993. By early 2005, the GSG had 130 registered members from 30 countries in Eurasia and North America.

Note on the IUCN and its Specialist Groups – there are 110 specialist groups all under the umbrella of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC). The specialist groups have over 7000 expert members and are spread across 140 countries. The SSC provides technical advice on conservaiton and manages the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species ( The

tasks of the GSG, and its members, as defined by IUCN/SSC are:

  • Networking: maintaining effective membership

  • Grouse status assessments and threat identification

  • Compiling Action Plans and publishing newsletters

  • Implementing conservation action

  • Organising meetings, symposia, and workshops

  • Contributing to SSC policy guidelines

  • Advocacy: contributing to conservation debates

2. GSG Report on activities 2002 – 2005
Major GSG tasks during 2002 – 2005

i. Identify new members in Eastern Europe and Asia – several new members have been recruited from these areas, including China, Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
ii. Share tasks among committee members – this has been achieved as follows:

  • Regional representatives:

Asia (excl. Russia) Sun Yue-Hua

Russia Alexander Andreev
Northern Europe Pekka Helle

Eastern Europe, Caucasus Siegi Klaus

Central Europe, Alps Ilse Storch

Western Europe/North David Baines

Western Europe/South Emmanuel Ménoni

Canada Kathy Martin

USA Jack Connelly

  • Grouse News editor: Tor Spidsö

  • Web site editor: Michèle Loneux

  • IGS host and organiser: Emmanuel Ménoni

  • Chair, Action Plan Editor: Ilse Storch

iii. Develop the GSG website – see item 3 below.

iv. Develop a species status database for all grouse – achieved and available on GSG website.

v. Clarify status of Caucasian Black Grouse – a programme of survey work has commenced for this species and contacts have been made in Georgia, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran.

vi. Implement Action Plan projects on threatened taxa – some action in this regard e.g. Caucasian Black Grouse and Chinese Grouse, but enormous scope for further action.
vii. Revise IUCN Grouse Action Plan in 2005 – revision underway, led by Ilse Storch.

viii. Advocacy; participate in conservation debates

- GSG members have participated on request, but IUCN wants Specialist Groups to be more directly involved in conservation debates. There is therefore a need for GSG to be more active on this front.

Q. Pekka Hella (Finland) asked what was the appropriate way for a GSG member to refer to his membership when involved in a conservation debate.
A. Ilse Storch (GSG Chair, Germany) explained that members were free to quote their membership is such a scenario and that, according to the IUCN guidelines, there are no political restrictions. Phil McGowan (WPA guest speaker) advised that the guidelines had been revised such that only the Chair of a Specialist Group may give a formal opinion for that Specialist Group. Therefore, if a GSG member is involved in a conservation debate and requires support from the GSG, this must come from Ilse Storch as Chair of the GSG.
Note: Dr. Holly T. Dublin, Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC), later confirmed this position in an email to Kenny Kortland on 10 Oct 2005: ‘’…..while it is possible for SG members to state their affiliation with the SSC and their respective SG, it is not possible for them to speak on behalf of the Group unless explicitly authorised to do so by the Chair.  Speaking on behalf of the SSC or IUCN carries additional requirements.’’
Mario Quevedo (Spain) indicated that he would take advantage of this facility to get GSG support. He intends translating the Cantabrian Capercaillie Management Plan into English and circulating it within the GSG for comments – ultimately to obtain official GSG support for the plan.

Other activities during 2002 – 2005

  • Grown to 120 members from 31 countries

  • GSG website launched, 2002

  • Grouse News: now distributed electronically to all members, 2003

  • IGS 9 papers published in Wildlife Biology 4/2003

  • Visit to Scottish Capercaillie Life Project, 2003

  • Visit to Hazel Grouse Project, French Alps, 2004

  • Participated in CBG Conference, Georgia, 2003

  • Participated in Polish Grouse Workshop, 2005

  • Chicago Zoological Society award for CBG surveys in Azerbaijan, 2004

  • Grouse Action Plan revision under way, 2005

  • 10th International Grouse Symposium, 2005

3. Grouse Specialist Group Website

The GSG website is available at: The webmaster is Michèle Loneux ( and she welcomes ideas and contributions for the website. A useful link to an extensive grouse bibliography is now available on the website. It is hoped that a ‘’literature watch“ will be managed via the website, such that GSG members can advise Michèle of new papers and publications.


Grouse News

Grouse News is the newsletter of the GSG and is emailed to all members; it is also available in pdf formatt on the website. The editor for Grouse News is Tor Spidso ( The newsletter is a forum for GSG members to inform others of their research or conservation activities related to grouse. Contributions from GSG members are vital for the newsletter and each member should aim to make at least one contribution per year – this can be anything from a snippet of information to a full-length article on published or ongoing research.

11th IGS in 2008 and 12th IGS in 2011

The organizer of the 11th International Grouse Symposium is well known GSG member Kathy Martin ( of the University of British Columbia. A vote was held during the workshop regarding the location and timing of the 11th IGS. The following was agreed:

11th IGS: Location: Whitehorse, Yukon. Timing: September 2008.
Kathy explained that seven species of grouse are present in the area and that, rather than having a post-syposium excursion, it is likely that the itinerary will constitute a mix of indoor days of talks and field trips.
A discussion was held on candidate locations and hosts for the 12th IGS in 2011.

Criteria for these were agreed as follows:

- Experienced ’grouser’ as host

- Univ or Agency giving formal support

- Socially-economically-politically predictable

- Strong local research programme

- Not too far from international airport

- Within a new part of the grouse range

- Suitable for post-conference field trip
Georgia (depending on polictical situation) and Switzerland were identified as possible locations, with Scotland as a possible reserve.

6. Major GSG tasks for 2005 – 2008

i. Complete Action Plan Revision in 2005 – underway.
ii. Identify Priority Actions for AP
iii. Online Publication of AP
iv. Planning 11th IGS 2008 – Kathy Martin
v. Candidate host for 12th IGS 2011 – Georgia or Switzerland.
vi. Continue CBG conservation status clarification

More generally, it is important for the GSG to be more actively involved in conservation debates, and members should seek to take advantage of their membership to support their contribution to such debates. For example, in the absence of rigorous science on a particular issue affecting grouse, the collective knowledge and experience of GSG members could be collated and distilled into an agreed GSG advice note on the issue. This could then be signed by the Chair (Ilse Storch) and used by GSG members to support or initiate conservation action.

7. New teams within the GSG

Within the GSG, specialist ‘teams’ have been established. These teams will be a forum discussion, and for initiating and coordinating research or conservation action in their respective fields. There may be scope for the teams to undertake specific work for the GSG in response to demand from members e.g. as suggested in 6 above.

All GSG members will be invited to become members of the respective teams. Once teams are defined, the members will be responsible for carrying out tasks assigned to them – coordinated by the team leaders. Reports, advice notes, research proposals etc that are produced by the teams will be circulated around all members for comment. Once agreed, the Chair will sign them off as ‘official’ GSG outputs.

i. Genetics Specialist Team


Jacob Höglund (Sweden)

Gernot Segelbacher (Germany)

(Note: the WPA Galliformes Genetics Group is already up and running and details can be found at
ii. Conservation Management Specialist Team

Leader: Kenny Kortland (Scotland)

Task 1 – Produce ’GSG Advice Note Number 1 – Recommendations for reducing impacts of disturbance on grouse’. There is currently a lack of research on the impacts of disturbance on grouse, though ongoing research by GSG members Dominik Thiel and Raphael Arlettaz will be helpful in the near future. In the meantime, GSG Advice Note Number 1 is intended to produce guidance aimed at influencing conservaiton debates and decision makers involved in disturbance issues affecting grouse.
Task 2 – Produce a review of grouse conservation management

techniques. This review will attempt to verify the effectiveness of various conservation management prescriptions, using the experience of GSG members.

iii. Grouse Harvest Management Specialist Team

Leader: Jack Connelly (USA)

8. IUCN Red List
Phil McGowan (England) of the World Pheasant Association ( gave a talk focusing on the IUCN Red List and the role of the GSG in wider Galliform conservation. The content of Phil’s talk is summarized as follows:
IUCN Red List – BirdLife International is the IUCN appointed Red List Authority for birds and, as such, they have provided all the bird assessments used for the IUCN Red List. The WPA and the Galliformes Specialist Groups, together with BirdLife staff, are considered by BirdLife to be official evaluators for the Red List. The list will be updated for all birds in 2007 and it is important that the GSG provides up-to-date information on the following species:

Data Deficient: Caucasian black grouse

Endangered: Gunnison sage grouse

Vulnerable: Greater prairie chicken

Lesser prairie chicken

Near threatened: Siberian grouse

Chinese grouse

Greater sage grouse

Species fact sheets for the above species are available on the BirdLife website ( and efforts were made by WPA to ensure that the relevant GSG members were involved in compiling them. All members are invited to help revise these – in preparation for 2007 – by contributing to the revision of the Grouse Action Plan. Phil explained that the activities of the GSG were extensive and advanced compared to the other galliform specialist groups. He suggested that the breadth of technical experience and expertise within the GSG should be used to help the other galliform specialist groups e.g. through thematic projects.

Phil can be contacted at the following address:

Dr Philip McGowan


World Pheasant Association

7-9 Shaftesbury Street






Q. Mike Schroeder (USA) asked what was the IUCN policy regarding listing of subspecies. Emmanuel Menoni (France) explained that an IUCN listing would be useful politically for the Pyrenean sub-species of capercaillie, which he stated was an ‘evolutionary significant unit’.
A. Phil McGowan explained that bird subspecies are not included in Red List. However, Ilse Storch explained that subspecies could be included in the Grouse Action Plan. Emmanuel was of the opinion that an IUCN listing would result in better protection for this capercaillie subspecies in France. Ilse suggested checking the IUCN criteria for listing.
Note: Kenny Kortland contacted BirdLife International for guidance on the listing of subspecies. Stuart Butchart of BirdLife International provided the following outline and advice:
Subspecies can be listed on the IUCN Red List. However, BirdLife International (the Red List authority for birds) does not list bird subspecies because they do not have the capacity, in terms of staff, to deal with this extra workload.
However, GSG members may apply the IUCN criteria to obtain a listing category for a subspecies, which can then be checked and corroborated by BirdLife International. GSG members can then use this BirdLife corroboration of the status of a subspecies (plus an accompanying GSG letter of support) for political purposes of obtaining better protection etc. Therefore, although a bird subspecies will not actually be listed, it is possible to have it categorised and to obtain significant support from the Red List authority on birds.
To obtain this BirdLife International corroboration of the category, it is necessary to provide Stuart Butchart with the data that was used to obtain the listing category for the subspecies e.g. data on population trends, range contractions, habitat loss (which can be used as a surrogate for declines in grouse habitat specialists).
Although there are regional guidelines for the application of Red List criteria, BirdLife International advise that the international guidelines should be used when carrying out a categorisation exercise for a subspecies, because it is better to demonstrate that a subspecies is threatened at an international level.
The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria can be viewed at:

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