The capercaillie is a localised breeding species which is largely confined to Scottish native pinewoods. In the UK, it became extinct in the mid-18th century and was re-introduced in the mid-19th. Numbers have declined rapidly throughout its range in Northern Europe over recent decades with the current UK population estimate now standing at 2,200 birds in winter.
The capercaillie is listed on Annex 1 of the Birds Directive and Appendix II of the Bern Convention. It is also listed on Schedules 2, 3 and 9 of the WCA 1981.
Current factors causing loss or decline
The factors affecting this species are poorly understood but may include:
Predation due to a reduction in keepering.
Collisions with deer fences.
Over-shooting and human disturbance.
Over-grazing by deer and sheep reducing the vigour of ground vegetation.
An increase in adverse weather conditions during June when chicks are newly hatched.
Management prescriptions have been implemented to increase numbers of breeding capercaille and suitability of habitat in a number of forests, i.e. natural pinewoods and areas with better Vaccinium field layers.
Research into preferred habitat is ongoing, managed by the inter-agency Capercaille Working Group in Scotland.
Voluntary bans on shooting are in place on many estates and all FE forests
Action plan objectives and targets
Halt the decline of the capercaillie in its core range in eastern and central Scotland by 2000.
Expand the range of the capercaillie by 2010.
Increase the population of capercaillie in Scotland to 5000, by 2010.
Proposed actions with lead agencies
Policy and legislation
Seek to protect, manage, create and enhance native pinewoods for the benefit of capercaillie. (ACTION: FA, FE, SNH, SOAEFD)
Site safeguard and management
Encourage sympathetic management of Scots pine, especially extended rotations in commercial plantations. (ACTION: FA, FE, SNH)
Encourage management of non-Scots pine woodland for capercaillie within, or close to, existing capercaillie ranges. (ACTION: FA, FE, SNH)
Consider aerial spraying of insecticide within, or close to, existing ranges on a case-by-case basis to avoid undue impact to capercaillie. (ACTION: FA, FE)
Seek to enhance the continuity of existing isolated woodland fragments within the current range of the species. (ACTION: FA, FE, SNH)
Promote reduced grazing by deer and sheep to encourage regeneration of native pinewood and blaeberry understorey, and to allow removal of fences. (ACTION: FA, Red Deer Commission, SOAEFD)
Species management and protection
Encourage removal of forest fences where practicable and, following further research by the Capercaillie Working Group, improve visibility of remaining fences. (ACTION: FA, FE, SNH)
Consider adding capercaillie to Schedule 1 of the WCA 1981 to make disturbance of nesting birds an offence. (ACTION: DOE, SOAEFD)
Encourage private estates and FE to continue the voluntary ban on shooting capercaillie. (ACTION: SNH)
Provide advice to landowners and managers of native pinewoods and plantations on favourable methods of management for capercaillie, in particular managers of estates considering re-introduction or re-stocking programmes. (ACTION: FA, SNH)
Ensure the provision of appropriate advice on predator control. (ACTION: SNH)
Future Research and Monitoring
Survey suitable sites to assess the number and breeding success of capercaille in relation to methods of habitat management and predator control, and their inter-relationship with other native pinewood species. (ACTION: SNH)
Establish the frequency of collisions of capercaillie with deer fences and research the effectiveness of marking fences in reducing collision risks. (ACTION: FC, SNH)
Encourage a survey of numbers and distribution, and establish a long-term population monitoring scheme. (ACTION: SNH)
Pass information gathered during survey and monitoring of this species to JNCC or BRC so that it can be incorporated in national databases. (ACTION: SNH)
Provide information annually to Birdlife International on the UK status of the species to contribute to maintenance of an up-to-date global red list. (ACTION: JNCC)
Communications and Publicity
Lek sites should remain confidential to protect the breeding population. (ACTION: SNH)
Consider publishing a Code of Practice for birdwatching, to highlight the problems of human activity in the vicinity of capercaille and other sensitive species and advise on appropriate techniques. (ACTION: SNH, JNCC)
Links with other action plans
Originally published in: Biodiversity: The UK Steering Group Report - Volume II: Action Plans (December 1995, Tranche 1, Vol 2, p106)
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