Our Land­Scape

Landscape (UK) - - Contents -

The capercail­lie, Gaelic for ‘great cock of the wood’, is the largest bird in the grouse fam­ily, with the turkey-sized males weigh­ing up to 11lbs (5kg). In March, cocks be­gin con­test­ing for the best breed­ing ter­ri­tory, known as a lek, be­fore mat­ing be­gins prop­erly later in the sea­son. Beak held aloft, huge black tail fanned out and throat feath­ers bristling, it pa­trols the area, emit­ting a creaky call, fol­lowed by a suc­ces­sion of clicks and a fi­nal ‘pop’, like a cork from a bot­tle. In Bri­tain, it is found ex­clu­sively in the pinewoods of the High­lands, with the ma­jor­ity in the Cairn­gorms Na­tional Park. At this time of year, the birds, which are crit­i­cally en­dan­gered in the UK and very dif­fi­cult to spot, are ex­tremely sen­si­tive to dis­tur­bance. The lek, there­fore, is al­most im­pos­si­ble to see, and the sites are of­ten pro­tected from hu­man in­ter­fer­ence.

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