Survey reports significant drop in Capercaillie numbers

Capercaillie web

Just over 1000 of the rare birds remain in Scotland

25th July 2017 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Capercaillies are now officially one of Scotland’s most endangered birds.

The latest national survey of Scotland’s population of the bird – the world’s largest grouse – estimates there to be only 1,114 of the species.

A new five-year initiative, the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project, is being developed to help protect the population. More than 80% of the birds were found in Strathspey. 

Andy Ford, of project leaders Cairngorms Nature, said: “People are key to securing the future of capercaillie in the National Park. We want to empower people to be inspired to get involved.”

The scheme will work closely with communities to build support for the conservation of capercaillie, as well as aiming to create bigger, better managed and better connected forests to support long-term survival of the creatures and other species in pine woods.

Residents will help the project team design sensible approaches to improve recreational opportunities for locals and visitors while reducing disturbance of capercaillie.

The capercaillie population is assessed every six years by RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) with the most recent survey conducted during winter 2015/16. The previous study put numbers at 1285.

Conservation scientists have identified the main reasons for the current status of capercaillie as relatively low levels of breeding success, particularly as wet summer conditions make chicks easier targets for predators. and an increase in deaths from collisions with deer fences. The latter can be reduced by marking fences, decreasing their height or removing them. 

Despite their size capercaillie are fairly elusive, often sitting quietly in pine trees or on the forest floor. In spring, however, they can be seen gathering at communal leks where the males go to strut their stuff in the hopes of attracting a mate.