The Black Grouse Bird(male) is a striking bird, glossy black over most of the body and with a long lyre-shaped tail that is elevated and spread during lekking displays. The undertail is white, and during display this is fanned upwards to show as a big white nappy. There is a white wingbar visible at rest, and also a couple of isolated white patches at the wing root and on the lesser coverts. The male has a red wattle over the eye. The Black Grouse Bird (female) is much more subtle, a warm brown overall with barring and freckling in black, less boldly barred and less richly coloured than the female Capercaillie, and with a narrow whitish wingbar and a longer tail in comparison to the female Red Grouse; also, the tail is slightly notched and appears rather square-cut in flight.
Black Grouse Bird typically but not exclusively favours upland areas, usually in mixed birch and conifer forest, bushy areas with open ground, moorland edges and bogs. It shies away from open moorland, but can often be seen feeding on open ground, requiring the nearby cover of scrut or tall vegetation to where it can steal away when danger approaches. Black Grouse Bird is often found perching in trees, and forms flocks outside the breeding season.
Black Grouse Bird is often silent, except for the eerie sounds that the males make. They utter a far-carrying repeated five- or six- syllable bubbling sound "urr-urr'ur-urr-rhuurrr", often with a final flourish "arr-arr-awarr!". This call is interspersed with an explosive "khoo-whish!" or a hoarser "tow-wahh!" The Black Grouse Bird (males) make these sounds when they are advertising or 'lekking', and although it is possible to find males singing alone, typically there will be a group of them gathered in a selected 'lek' where they bubble away, hoping to attract a mate. Another call is a chuntering "eeh -ee-ee- eh-heh", and the females can utter a loud "pluk-pluk-pluk".