|Male Western Capercaillie|
Technically referred to in the guides as the Western Capercaillie, T.urogallus has a range centred on the Taiga forests of Scandinavia eastward into western Russia. In eastern Russia across into China it is replaced by the very similar Black-billed Capercaillie, T.parvirostris. The western species is also found in suitable habitat in the Alps and Pyrenees’, which points to a much wider range during the last glaciation. The original British population was basically another survivor from the last Ice Age, and by historical times was confined to Scotland and Ireland, although subfossil remains show it was once found to the south as well. Globally, both species are classed as Least Concern, although other populations of Western Capercaillie on the continent are also declining.
|Male Black-billed Capercaillie|
|Female Western Capercaillie|
The first reintroduction attempts in Scotland began within 50 years of its extinction. Various Scottish aristocrats obtained live birds from the continent, mostly Sweden, and released them into their estates. The first success came in 1837 at Taymouth Castle, in Perthshire, where Lord Breadalbane released nearly 50 birds into the forests of his estate, followed the following year by another 16 hens. Eggs were laid, and as an additional measure some clutches were collected and placed in the nests of Black Grouse (then much commoner than today) to increase productivity. From there additional birds were translocated around the Highlands, furth extending their range. In western Scotland however the birds did not thrive, probably because of the wetter climate.
Next week, the only migrant gamebird in Britain, the Quail.
(images from wikipedia)