Capercaillie Bird Information & Facts

Largest of the European grouse, the capercaillie, frequents woodlands, mostly conifer forests with dense undergrowth, in the mountains and hill country.

Capercaillie Bird Information and Facts

Length: Male — 94 cm, female — 67 cm.
Weight: Male 5 to 6 kg, female —2.5 to 3 kg. Marked sexual dimorphism.
Voice: The male’s courting call begins with a rapidly accelerating ‘tik-up, tik-up, tik-up’, ending with a ‘pop’, followed by hissing and whispering; the hen’s call is a pheasant-like ‘kok-kok’.
Size: 50.8 – 62.2 X 39.0 — 43.5 mm.

Capercaillie Bird’s Habitat

In the north, Capercaillie may also be found in lowland areas. Native to Scotland, the Pyrenees, northern and central Europe, it remains in its breeding grounds throughout the year. Except during the courting season, it is a very shy bird and adept at concealing itself. It is only by accident that one may sometimes flush it from cover when walking in the woods.

The spring courtship display, however, is conspicuous and remarkable and well known to hunters. During one phase of the display, which takes place while it is still dark, the cock is ‘deaf’ and ‘blind’ for a few seconds. When dawn breaks he flies down to the ground, often engaging in battle with a rival.  While this takes place the Capercaillie hens sit waiting on nearby branches, and are then led off by the victor.


The nest is a hollow in the ground which the Capercaillie hen digs, usually at the base of a tree trunk, and it is lined with grass and leaves.

Capercaillie Bird Breeding

Female incubates the 5 to 8 eggs alone for 26 to 29 days, and then rears the young which, able to feed by themselves, she guides in search of food. She also shelters them under her wings and provides them with protection. The chicks are coloured yellow-russet with dark spots, and by the age of 10 days are able to fly about and begin to roost on branches at night. The diet consists chiefly of insects, berries, buds and shoots of conifers. The capercaillie is a popular game bird.

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