Above: Scottish beauty: capercaillie is a localised breeding species of grouse that makes its home in native pinewood and commercial conifer plantations ©Shutterstock.com/godi photo


By Georgina Probert

A new report warns that capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) could be lost to Scotland within two to three decades if the current rate of population decline continues.

The scientific review by a sub-group of the NatureScot Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) has also advised on measures that could help reverse the fortunes of the capercaillie in Scotland.

Drawing on a large amount of past and ongoing research by members of the Scottish Capercaillie Group, the report found that the current breeding success of capercaillie is too low to allow recovery of the population.

Interventions that improve the survival of eggs and young chicks are especially important, added the authors. These include predator control from foxes, pine martens and crows, as well as seasonal visitor management and the creation of refuges around capercaillie hotspots to minimise disturbance from the public. The survival of adult birds could be enhanced by the better marking of deer fences or removing them altogether, as they can cause injury or death to birds in flight.

Eileen Stuart, NatureScot deputy director of nature and climate change, said: “It’s clear that the future of capercaillie in Scotland is extremely vulnerable. This excellent report sets out the scientific evidence on capercaillie conservation and management, and the steps that are now needed to help save this key species.”

NatureScot and the Cairngorms National Park Authority are working with partners to draw up options for improving the prospects for capercaillie.

“Capercaillie are magnificent birds and an iconic species for Scotland, so I am deeply concerned that their population continues to decline. This underlines the need to redouble our efforts to work in partnership and at the landscape scale to reverse these declines,” added biodiversity minister Lorna Slater.

“We will carefully consider the advice in this report and work with partners to build on the positive conservation work already happening on the ground, such as through the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project.”

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