This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
Under the head of "game," strictly so called, are included, throughout the United Kingdom, grouse, black game, pheasants, partridges, and hares; for the practically extinct bustard may be left out of consideration for ordinary purposes, and the ptarmigan is only to be found in Scotland. In Ireland quails and landrails are included among "game," but, although not so designated in the Acts relating to Great Britain, these birds cannot be legally shot without a game licence; and a similar remark may be made with regard to woodcock and snipe. Other wild-fowl, not game, are protected by the Wild Birds Protection Act, the close season extending from March 1 to August 1; but this is liable to modification by County Councils, even relaxed in respect of certain birds particularly injurious to fisheries, such as terns on the East Suffolk coast, and Devonshire Exe Fishery District in respect of cormorants or shags, owing to their destructiveness to the salmon fisheries; and as the list of protected birds varies, it is necessary for cultivators to provide themselves with that relating to the respective district.
Probably these, like partridges, compensate for any damage done to crops by the pests they devour. Besides, shooters and poachers give them so little quarter that they are never likely to become notably injurious to cultivated crops. Fond of lucerne and other leguminous herbage, they are sometimes taken by hair nooses set in their tracks in lucerne fields, either secured to pegs or lumps of well-worked clay.
So rare is this bird that it is never likely to become injurious in the forest, though from its weight and habit of feeding on the tender growth of trees it would probably prove destructive if reared and maintained in such numbers as pheasants.
This bird certainly compensates, by devouring insects, for any damage inflicted on herbage in its native wilds.
Feeding upon the tender growths of heather and other moorland herbage and also destroying insects and other pests, grouse hardly interfere with the pasturage for sheep. But they love the leguminous herbage, and also the grain of the moor-edge farmers, who, however, do not consider the grouse's depredations particularly hurtful. It is matter, nevertheless, for consideration as to whether grouse would not have to disappear in case of the suitable parts of moorland being reclaimed for arboricultural, agricultural, and horticultural purposes.