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Finding & Photographing The Western Capercaillie

Eschenbach share their knowledge on the western capercaillie.

| Eschenbach Binoculars Arena D+ 10x50 B in Animals / Wildlife

Finding & Photographing The Western Capercaillie : western capercaillie


Who would not like to see the largest member of the grouse family, the majestic western capercaillie. However, our very own desire to observe this magnificent bird could very well be one of the reasons why it is getting rarer and rarer.



Western capercaillies display one of the most extreme sexual dimorphism among all bird species. The male is as big as a goose with some specimens weighing more than 6kg while the female is much smaller, about the same size as a domestic chicken, and usually weighs less than 2kg. The male’s body is dark grey and dark brown with a metallic green gloss on the breast. Females are much less conspicuous; their plumage is simply brown with black barring. Like all member of the grouse family, their legs are feathered. They also have a bright red spot formed by naked skin just above the eye; hunters call those spots “roses”.


Distribution and habitat

The western capercaillie lives in coniferous, mixed and deciduous forest zones of northern Europe, western Asia and central Asia. They are fairly common in Sweden, Norway, Russia and Romania but threatened by extinction in Germany. Sadly they are already extinct in Belgium and Ireland. They also disappeared from Scotland but have been successfully reintroduced. Capercaillies are well adapted to their original habitat and are extremely sensitive to changes made to their ecosystems by human activity like hunting, deforestation and tourism.


Bird watching tips

Beside its characteristic appearance, the capercaillie is also well known for its courtship parade - the male points its beak to the sky, raises its tail feathers into a fan-like shape and holds its wings out and drooped. Then it starts singing a series of accelerating clicks, sounding like a ping pong ball that has been dropped.

Western capercaillies are rarely seen flying since they are rather cumbersome during flight and will almost always run in the face of danger. Capercaillies should be observed and photographed from a rather great distance; they are extremely shy and very susceptible to stress.


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