Western capercaillie

(Tetrao urogallus)


Western capercaillie IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The Western Capercaillie has a body length of 80 to 115 cm, with females being much smaller. Males' weight is 3.9 to 4.3 kg (up to 6.5 kg), females weigh from 1.7 to 2.0 kg. It is a large, very dark grouse, mostly slate grey with fine vermiculations, blackish on the head and neck. The breast is glossy greenish black. The wings are dark brown with a prominent white carpal patch, and there is a variable amount of white on the upper- and undertail-coverts and the underparts. The tail is long and rounded, and the bill is ivory white. Combs are scarlet. Females are barred and mottled black, grey and buff; similar but larger than T. tetrix, with a longer, more rounded rufous tail, and a large rusty patch on the breast.

Did you know?
that the capercaillies are forest dwellers of considerable size, with a western and an eastern representative, the Western Capercaillie (T. urogallus) and the Black-billed Capercaillie (T. parvirostris) respectively. They were probably separated during the Ice Ages, but their ranges now overlap over a large zone of the Yenisey Basin, where interbreeding often results in hybrids, evidence that their reproductive isolation is incomplete, despite the fact that their courtship rituals are quite different.


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Tetrao urogallus
Name (English) Western capercaillie
Name (French) Grand tétras
Name (German) Auerhahn, Auerhuhn
Name (Spanish) Urogallo común
Local names Finnish: Metso
Italian: Gallo cedrone
Romansh; Cot da taus, Giaglina da taus
Swedish: Tjäder
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Vladimír Motyčka



Range Through the northern temperate and boreal forests from Britain and Spain in the west, across the taiga of northern Eurasia to about 120°E (roughly as far as the Lena River in Russia). Its range in the west (Europe) has decreased and become highly fragmented owing to forest loss and degradation, especially in lowland areas.
Habitat In forest and woodland, mainly coniferous (espedially Pinus sylvestris, but also Picea, Abies etc.) or mixed coniferous-deciduous; also in islated broad-leaved forests in parts of its range, e.g. Cantabrian Mountains (Northern Spain) and Southern Urals. Prefers extensive areas of old, shady forest, often with damp soil and interspersed with bogs, areas of peat or glades, and with a dense undergrowth of ericaceous plants (Vaccinium, Calluna). In winter, it may select more open forest, at least in the North, while during summer denser forests with abundant fruit bushes are preferred, especially by broods and moulting birds.
Wild population The Capercaillie has declined throughout its world range, particularly since the 1960s. Declines can be attributed mainly to habitat loss owing to forestry practices, but also to hunting, disturbance, predation, habitat degradation, and climatic fluctuation. The original UK population became extinct in the late 18th century. It was re-established through re-introductions of Swedish birds in the 1830s, but is now in decline again.
Zoo population 77 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Western capercaillie


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 16 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


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Why do zoos keep this animal

The capercailie, being the largest gallinaceous bird of the western Palearctic is displayed for educational reasons mainly in parks specializing in European fauna.