Capercaillie

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2006  | Bird News for Scotland 2006 |  Capercaillie

Tetrao urogallus

Tetrao urogallus

Capercaillie

The name capercaillie comes from the Gaelic 'capull coille', meaning 'horse of the woods'. This is in fact the largest grouse in the world, so highlanders may have called it this because of the bird's massive bulk, crashing though low-hanging branches at speeds of up to 40 mph, or because of the unusual 'klopping' sound it makes as it calls.

The capercaillie carries the dubious distinction of being the UK breeding bird most likely to become extinct by 2015 .Despite their size, these birds are vulnerable. To survive and breed, they need large interconnected areas of mature, open Scots pine woodland, with ground cover of blaeberry, heather and other plants which provide food. Capercaillie favour ancient Scots pinewood, relying on it for food and shelter. Once, this habitat covered most of the Highlands of Scotland but now the pinewoods are reduced to remnants, and are the last stronghold for this endangered bird.

Within Strathspey is the RSPB nature reserve at Abernethy (which includes the Loch Garten Osprey Centre, the main viewing site for capercaillie and the newly acquired Revack Forest Estate). This one reserve accounts for over 15% of the total UK population of capercaillie.

Time is not on the capercaillie's side. Can you help the RSPB efforts to save this magnificent bird by making a donation today?

Or if you are interested in more information about the RSPB Major Donor 'Friends of Capercaillie' Programme, please write to Alison Connelly at RSPB Scotland, Dunedin House, 25 Ravelston Terrace, Edinburgh, EH4 3TP, Scotland, UK, or use the e-mail address below.
E-mail: rspb.scotland@rspb.org.uk
Books about this species - click here

Capercallie: A Review of Research Needs

The capercaillie is a red-listed species in Scotland where it has undergone a dramatic reduction in number and range over the last 20-25 years. In spite of much recent research, which has led to a better understanding of capercaillie requirements, the objectives of the Government's Species Action Plan will not be achieved unless the decline can be halted. In an attempt to arrest or reverse this decline, a review of the European literature has been undertaken to identify factors contributing to this decline. Research needs are prioritised and improvements in conservation practice that would benefit capercaillie are recommended.

Native capercaillie became extinct in 1783, largely due to previous deforestation. The successful re-establishment from 1938-39 coincided with the maturing of large areas of forest planted on estates during 1750-1850 and with intense predator control that eliminated entire predatory guilds from areas managed for gamebirds. Numbers reached a peak during 1910-30 and again during 1960-75. Since then numbers have declined and breeding range has contracted to the central Highlands. Two recent estimates indicate that numbers fell from around 2200 birds in 1992-94 to 1073 birds in 1998-99. Overall, conifer plantations have lower densities than semi-natural pinewoods, but the area of plantation is far greater, and with appropriate management could provide a substantial resource for capercaillie.
The capercaillie is listed on Annex I of the Birds Directive, Appendix II of the Bern Convention and Schedules 2, 3 and 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The re-scheduling of capercaillie to Schedule 1 is currently under consideration.

It is a potential quarry species, but because of its decline in recent years a voluntary shooting ban has been in place on Forestry Commission and privately-owned land since 1990. This has been effective.
It was first included as a red data species by Batten et al. (1990) and subsequently red-listed by Gibbons et al. (1996). The later designation was based on a reduction of over 50% in its breeding range during the last 25 years.
The objectives and targets of the Government's Species Action Plan (UK Biodiversity Group, 1998) are: ..........(more details)..

The Capercaillie LIFE Project

The Capercaillie LIFE Project

Trees for Life: Restoring the Caledonian Forest

Trees for Life: Restoring the Caledonian Forest

Male capercaillie have a complex display that they use to attract females to mate with them in the Spring. This display is usually a communal affair at a traditional site known as a lek, which originates from the Norse word meaning 'to dance'. They may also use a transient arena or even display from trees in response to the presence of a female. Initially the display song involves tapping and gurgling which accelerates to a drum roll that earned the bird his Gaelic name, capull-choille, the horse of the woods. This drum roll is followed by a noise which rather resembles a cork being pulled out of a bottle, and the final song phase involves alternating gurgling and wheezing. To many people, this soft dawn song is rather surprising for such a large bird, especially as the purpose is to attract hens from afar. However, it is now recognised that parts of the song are below the human range of hearing. The subsonic part of the call is thought to carry well over distance and to be audible to other capercaillie.
Further information can be found at the Trees for Life web site by clicking here

Click here for Scottish Bird Books

Click here for Scottish Bird Books

Capercaillie at Craigmore

Capercaillie in Scotland have been declining since the 1970's, with fewer than 2,000 birds left in 2003. In June 2003 the RSPB appealed to the public for funds, and recieved an excellent response that enabled the purchase of Revack Forest - 834 hectares next to the existing Abernethy nature reserve in the Highland region.
Revack forest is an ancient wood, where Scots pine has grown for around 8000 years, although much of it was replanted in the First and Second World Wars.This land purchase was part of a plan to help create networks of areas for capercaillie.
The RSPB was aware that work in one single forest was not enough to save the Capercaillie in Scotland as there were no scottish forest big enough to support a viable population of the birds on their own.As such, by adding to the area the RSPB already has, and encouraging other landowners to look after their forests with Capercaillie in mind, the birds should start to fare better.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2006  | Bird News for Scotland 2006 |  Capercaillie

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