Capercaillie

Scotland’s largest and rarest grouse species; the male is larger and, at a distance is conspicuous as it appears black. When seen more closely there are shades of dark blue on the throat and chest; green on the wings and brown on the back; the tail has white barring. He has conspicuous red wattle “eyebrows”. The hen is two-thirds the size of the cock and has a predominantly brown appearance, with white, black and brown barring.

During the winter adults can be seen feeding on the needles of Scots pine trees. In spring, the males gather at traditional breeding sites (leks), where they display and sing. Hens are attracted from over a kilometre away by a booming ultrasound call that is below our hearing range. We just hear the drumming and popping call. Hens are ground nesting single parents, raising up to six chicks on a variety of plants found growing on the forest floor. Juveniles have reached adult size by the autumn and are sometimes seen in different habitats whilst dispersing.

Found in upland pine forest where there is a good understorey of blueberry, this species is very rare. DO NOT look for lek sites, they are all protected by law. It is essential to keep dogs on leads in this type of habitat in the spring and summer to avoid disturbing hens and their growing chicks.

The capercaillie has declined to around 2000 birds. It is very sensitive to climate change and changes we have made in land use, including outdoor activities in forest areas, from mountain biking to cross-country skiing. It is an indicator species that tells us the health of the biodiversity within our upland forests in Scotland.

Black grouse

Black grouse

Tetrao tetrix

This is Scotland’s more common woodland grouse species. Males have blue/black plumage, with a distinctive red “eyebrow’ wattle and white down each wing as they fly. They are more conspicuous than the predominantly brown/grey camouflaged hen. Anot...

Red grouse

Red grouse

Lagopus lagopus scoticus

This is the most common grouse, a plump medium sized bird with a short tail, rich chestnut brown plumage and white-feathered legs.  Males can be identified by a red eyebrow wattle which is very apparent when they call during the breeding season. The w...

Ptarmigan

Ptarmigan

Lagopus mutus

The ptarmigan is a plump gamebird, slightly larger than a grey partridge. In summer, is a mixture of grey, brown and black above with white bellies and wings. In winter, it becomes totally white except for its tail and eye-patch, which remain black. It...