Capercaillie (Western Capercaillie)
Distribution Britain 66 (-63.7%) Ireland 0
Numbers breeding: Britain 2,200 Ireland 0
European status: 250,000 (1% in Britain and Ireland)
British population trend: deep and desperate decline
How likely are you to record it? 2 squares (0.0%) Ranked 183=
These are seriously big birds, the males weigh 4 kg, and they are, for the second time, in serious trouble they were extinct from 1785 in Scotland and rather earlier from Ireland. Birds were successfully introduced, from Sweden to Scotland, in 1837 and 1838 and for several more years. They reached their maximum about 90 years ago and remained fairly static for 40 years or so. There was then a further increase linked to the planting of new conifers and, by the time of the first Atlas, they occupied much of the high forested ground between the Great Glen and the Lowlands. Since then the population has crashed and the estimate of 2,200 may be very optimistic. Degradation of the habitat through overgrazing by sheep and deer and increased predation, mainly by the expanding fox population, are important factors. However attention has recently focused on deer fences. These are up to almost three metres high and cause deaths to flying grouse which would normally expect to be able to blast their way through the outer branches of trees. Grants are now available to remove old fences and to make useful fences obvious to the birds. The high deer populations, of course, cause the problem. Let's hope the help is in time.
UKBAP Scottish Natural Heritage Institute for Terrestrial Ecology & RSPB.
Search for another Species
From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead