Capercaillie ©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Male capercaillie

Male capercaillie ©Luke Massey/2020VISION


Scientific name: Tetrao urogallus
Male capercaillies perform spectacular communal displays in spring, gathering in woodland clearings to parade around, fanning their magnificent tail feathers and making strange gulping and clicking sounds as they compete for the attention of females.

Species information


Length: 74cm
Weight: 4.3kg (male), 2kg (female)

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December


The capercaillie is a huge gamebird, the size of a turkey, that lives in the forests of Scotland. Loss of its woodland habitat led to the capercaillie becoming extinct in the UK in the mid-18th century, but birds were reintroduced from Sweden almost a century later. They are now restricted to pine forests in the north of Scotland, where they feed on berries and the shoots and buds of conifer trees.

How to identify

Male capercaillie are huge birds, with glossy black bodies, tinged green on the breast, and brown wings. They have a strong, yellow bill and a red mark above the eye. Females are smaller and largely brown with darker barring. They are similar to female Black Grouse, but have a patch of bright, unbarred orange-brown on the throat and upper breast.


In the UK, capercaillie are found only in the pinewoods of northern Scotland.

Did you know?

The UK capercaillie population has declined rapidly in recent years, to the point that it is in danger of facing extinction for the second time.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.