Name: the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) – or western capercaillie, Eurasian capercaillie, wood grouse, or heather cock – is the largest member of the grouse family.
Appearance: male capercaillies are easily recognisable by their large size, green chest feathers, and bright red eyebrows. Females are much smaller and a more discrete, mottled brown colour to help them to hide from predators. Both males and females have feathered legs to protect against the cold, as well as extra skin on their feet which act like snowshoes.
Size: capercaillies are large, heavy birds. The males are almost twice the size of females, with a wingspan of up to 1.3 metres and a weight of 5 kg. The largest on record was a whopping 7.2 kg!
Diet: in summer they feed on blueberry leaves and berries with some grass seeds and shoots. in winter when snow covers the ground, they spent most of their time in trees feeding on pine needles. To help digest this difficult food they swallow small stones which break down the needles into small pieces. They also have two appendixes which help to digest the material.
Did you know: capercaillies are renowned for their elaborate courtship displays. At dawn on spring mornings, males display themselves by fanning their tails, pointing their beaks to the sky, and stretching out their wings. They then start to sing in a series of clicks like a dropping ping-pong ball. The clicks get faster and faster until they reach a popping sound like a cork coming of a champagne bottle. During this time they are full of testosterone and are known to chase people away who enter their territories.
Location: they live in the conifer forests of northern Europe. While they are common in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, they are now much rarer or even extinct in more southerly countries such as the UK, Germany, Belgium, and Ireland.
Where to see capercaillie
According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see capercaillie in the following places:
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Photo credit: Steve McLaren under a Creative Commons licence from Flickr