Good news for Capercaillie

This year's assessment of the Capercaillie breeding seasons has indicated an increase in numbers.
This year's assessment of the Capercaillie breeding seasons has indicated an increase in numbers.

Things are looking positive for Capercaillie within the Cairngorms National Park, a recently published report has revealed.

The annual assessment of how successful the breeding season has been for Capercaillie in the Cairngorms National Park has just been completed for 2014 and the results are looking good.

Counts of birds are undertaken by locating the chicks with highly trained pointer dogs. These counts have been undertaken by teams from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland and the RSPB.

The average number of chicks found per hen this year was at or above the minimum required to sustain the population (0.6 chicks per hen).

The Cairngorms National Park is now home to about 80 per cent of the UK Capercaillie population. Numbers and range have declined hugely over the last few decades and the forests of the national Park and Strathspey in particular are a vital last refuge.

Teh decline in the number of Capercaillie, the largest member of the grouse family, have been attributed to loss of habitat, forest fence collisions, wet spring and summer weather, predation and human disturbance.

The population plummeted from a high of 10,000 pairs in the 1960s to less than 1,000 birds in 1999. It was even named as the bird most likely to become extinct in the UK by 2015 although a concerted effort by wildlife and conservation organisations means that it has since made a modest recovery.

Justin Prigmore, nature officer at the Cairngorms National Park Authoritym, said; “The landowners of these essential caper forests would like to thank everyone who has responded positively to signage in the woods asking people to keep their dogs on a lead during the breeding season and keep to the tracks to avoid disturbance and allow this majestic species the best chance of survival.

“These land managers have been working hard to save Capercaillie and it’s great to see that the public are helping play their part as well”.

A new initiative is also currently under way which aims to secure the future of the Capercaillie in the Cairngorms National Park.

The Capercaillie Framework pulls together all the information currently available relating to Capercaillie distribution and productivity, along with the pressures they face and the current management measures being undertaken.

This will then be used to inform decisions about their future conservation management, so that work can be directed to where it is needed most.