Key facts

Scientific name: Tetrao urogallus
Status: Resident introduced population

Wintering birds: 1.300 birds

Conservation status: Red

Family: Grouse

Length: 60 – 87 cm
Wingspan: 87 – 125 cm
Weight: 3.5 – 5 kg (M) 1.5 – 2.5 kg (F)


Adult male capercaillies have dark grey upperparts that are narrowly vermiculated. They have dark underparts with white spots or streaks and glossy blue-green breasts. Their wings are dark brown with a white carpal patch. They have long, rounded tails with white-tips.

Capercaillies have pale yellow bills, brown eyes with a bright red comb, and their feathered legs and feet are dark grey.

Female capercaillies are smaller than males. They have barred and mottled grey, buff and black cryptic plumage with a rust breast patch and rust tails.

Juvenile capercaillies are similar to females but at about 3 months they moult to resemble adult plumage.


Capercaillies nest on the ground often at the base of a tree. They may occasionally use old nests placed above the ground. The nest is a shallow depression in the ground which the female lines with grass, pine needles, and twigs.

Capercaillies lay 6-9 eggs which the female incubates alone for 26 days. Chicks are precocial but are kept warm by their mother during the first week. They can fly at 2-3 weeks.


Capercaillies eat mainly plant matter such as pine needles, shoots, leaves and berries. Chicks will also feed on insects, caterpillars, beetles, and ants.


Where to see them

Capercaillies can be seen all year round in Scottish native pinewoods.


Simon Ernst/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Capercaillies are on of the UK’s rarest birds. They became extinct in the 1700s and were reintroduced in the 1830s. But since the 1970s their population has severely decreased again due to loss of habitat.

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