The name Capercaillie is thought to come from the
Gaelic Capull, meaning horse (or, more accurately, a mare),
and Coille, the genitive of coll,
a wood, together giving
"Horse of the Woods". The earliest recorded mention of the Capercaillie
appears to be by the Scotish historian Hector Boethius (also known as Boece)
who published his "History of Scotland" in 1526.
Taylor, the water-poet, in his Visit to the
(Works, London: 1630, page 135) mentions, "caperkellies"
among the meats provided for the guests of Lord Erskine in 1618; and The
Book of Taymouth tells (pages 433 and 434) of one that was sent in
1651 by the laird of Glenorchy to King Charles II, who, being then at Perth,
"accepted it weel as a raretie, for he had never seen any of them."
The Capercaillie is currently in danger of being
wiped out in the UK for the second time in its history. It first
disappeared from existence in the UK around 1784. Stephens in his continuation of Shaw's General
Zoology (ix. p. 268), writing in 1819 says that Montagu was present
"when one was killed near the upper end of Loch Lomond about thirty-five
years since." This would mean that the species survived until
about 1784, although the incident is not mentioned by Montagu in his own
work, and the assertion may be doubtful. The capercaillie was first
reintroduced to the UK in 1837.
It was stated in The Zoologist for 1879
(page 468) that its bones had been found among Roman remains at Settle
in Yorkshire, though the authority for their determination was not given.
A considerable number of bones were found in the 19th Century by Mr James
Backhouse in caves that he was investigating in Teesdale. The remains
were those of both sexes, and were sufficiently numerous to show that the
species had been common in the neighborhood, and had contributed considerably
to the food of the people who in a prehistoric age used the caves as dwellings.
The Capercaillie is the Tetrao urogallus species of
the Tetrao genus within the Tetraonidae family. It is also known
as the Wood Grouse.
The female measures from 54 to 63 cm length with
a wingspan of around 90 cm. The male is usually between 74 to 90
cm with a 60cm wingspan. The male can weigh up to 4-5kg, with the
female weigghing around 2.5 kg. The color of the plumage is characteristicaly
different between the genders. The males are grey, and the wings are brownish.
The majority of the breast in the male is greenish with a strong metallic
glossy effect. The females are of reddish color with brown and milky
Its main habitat covers primarily the taiga of
north and Eastern Europe, and coniferous forest zones of the alps and low
mountain ranges where there is abundant herbaceous vegetation, water and
berries. Usually it sleeps in the horizontal branches of the trees.
It is a bird that follows two types of seasonal
diets. In summer it is a terrestrial-feeding bird that feeds itself on
grass, ants, acorns, berries, small lizards and even snakes. During
the winter it becomes an arboreal bird and pine needles constitute the
The hens use a hole in the ground in which to lay
her eggs which number between five and twelve eggs. The eggs are
yellowish with lightly brown blots. Unfortunately the location of
the newly hatched chicks makes them easy prey for wild boars, dogs and
similar predators, resulting in a very slow increase in population.