The largest member of the game bird family resides in the pinewoods of Scotland, but is occasionally found in mature oakwoods. The male puts on a flamboyant display known as a “lek”: with wings pointed down, tail flared and beard bristling, he emits a series of gurgles and wheezes interspersed with cork popping sounds. If there is more than one male nearby, fights can break out, sometimes causing serious injury and even death. Females lay between 5 and 12 eggs in a nest on the ground and look after the chicks, without the male, during the summer. These family units then join larger groups of birds in the autumn.
Males are mainly grey in colour and have reddish-brown wings with a white patch on the shoulder. The head, neck and breast are tinged with blue, and the eye is highlighted by a ring of red skin. Males also have a “beard,” most noticeable during courtship displays, and a long tail. Females have brown plumage with striations all over the body and a reddish-brown patch on the breast.
Male: 4.3kg, body length; 74-90cm, wingspan; 87-125cm. Female: up to 2kg
Listed as Least Concern on the ICUN red list, protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 and a UKBAP priority species.
Found in the pinewoods of northern Scotland.
When to see
January – December
All capercaillie in Scotland are from Swedish stock, as the species became extinct in Scotland in 1785. The population has halved in recent years and a variety of threats including habitat loss and fragmentation, birds flying into deer fencing and chick mortality due to wet and cool weather now face this species.