Birds Capercaillie Photo By Lumvi Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Published on November 4th, 2009 | by Yellow Magpie

0

The Capercaillie: Aggression And Surprising Vocals

Capercaillie Photo By Lumvi Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Strange sounds echo and reverberate throughout the woodlands. Drops of water can be heard permeating from the trees but strangely it has been dry for several weeks. People can be heard coughing and suffering from a cold, yet they cannot be seen.

One could be forgiven for thinking they are going mad. Welcome to the fascinating and strange world of the Capercaillie.

Capercaillie Photo By Richard Bartz Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Capercaillie Photo By Richard Bartz Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Capercaillies, also known as woodgrouse, are the wild equivalents of turkeys. Males create quit a stir with the loud calling and aggressive, fearless behaviour during courtship. It is for this reason, together with their elaborate tail feather that people go to so much rounds to protect the endangered animal.

Like peacocks, there are differences between the female hens and male cocks known as sexual dimorphism. The hen is roughly twice as small as the cock and she does not have the elaborate tail fan that the male possesses.

Unusual Vocal Abilities

Capercaillie is Gaelige for ‘forest house’ and this could be due to their sound. The male Capercaillie possesses the most unusual of vocal abilities. During spring its call mimics dripping water. During mating the males call simulates what can only be describes as wheezing, gurgling and something which sounds like the de-corking of a bottle of wine sounds associated with domesticity.

The females on the other hand emit a more subdued clucking.

Reintroduction and Scottish Extinction

In the late 18th Century Capercaillies became extinct in Britain because of deforestation and over-hunting. A reintroduction project was started in Scotland in the 1830s to restore a wild population using birds brought in from Sweden. Presently in Scotland there are roughly a thousand left in the wild.

Female Capercaillie Photo By Honza Sterba Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Female Capercaillie Photo By Honza Sterba Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Capercaillie Diet and Libido

Capercaillies have quite a varied diet that reflects their adaptability. Leaves, insects, berries and grasses make up the bulk of their food. In winter time, they devote their time feeding on conifer needles and buds in trees. To aid digestion they make use of stones called gastroliths which help to grind down the food.

The fact that the birds consume a large amount of blueberries, which is said to be an aphrodisiac, may account for their extremely high levels of testosterone and their aggressive behaviour shown during courtship. Often they will attack anything that moves including cars and people.

Capercaillie Eggs Photo By Didier Descouens Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Capercaillie Eggs Photo By Didier Descouens Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Fierce Mating Ritualisms

Capercaillie cocks are known for their fierce territorial aggression during mating session. In a ritualistic courtship display, the cock raises his tail feather and positions the rest of his body much like a stealth plane reaching for the skies. His beak points upwards and his wings are in a swepted-back position.

In Norway this ritual is called a lek which means to dance. The places that the cocks perform is called a lekking site. If there is more than one male the biggest cock gets the best territory. As the females only mate with the cock which has the best territory, mating becomes a winner-takes-all contest.

Vital Statistics

  • The largest member of the grouse family, Capercaillies can reach one metre (three feet) in length.
  • They can be as large as four kilogrammes (nine lbs) in weight.
  • Most capercaillie live four or five years, although one is on record as having lived over nine years.
  • Capercaillies are generally found in coniferous forests in central Asia and temperate, northern Europe.


Further Reading

There is a dearth of reading material on the Capercaillie. The Capercaillie in Scotland is one of the few dedicated books on the subject and contains detailed information on the bird. A treasure of information, it was written over 180 years ago.

The book charts the reintroduction of the bird into Scotland and is full of interesting insights. Well worth reading for its explanation of how the bird became extinct in Scotland.

Amazon.co.uk
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom you can access The Capercaillie in Scotland here:

Amazon.ca
For those living in Canada you can obtain The Capercaillie in Scotland from here.

Amazon.de
For Germany: The Capercaillie in Scotland.

Amazon.fr
For France: The Capercaillie in Scotland.


About the Author



Comments are closed.

Back to Top ↑