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Study into capercaillie breeding success and dispersal highlights need for landscape-scale intervention to halt decline towards extinction - Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

A recently published study into the breeding and dispersal of capercaillie in Strathspey undertaken over four years from 2016-2019 has concluded that, without further managed landscape-scale intervention to improve breeding success, it is likely that the already threatened species will continue to decline.

The study, Observations on breeding and dispersal by capercaillie in Strathspey, was undertaken by scientists from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), and co-funded by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Scottish Forestry (formerly Forestry Commission Scotland), Forestry and Land Scotland (formerly Forest Enterprise Scotland) and the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

The Scottish capercaillie has been declining in range and numbers since the 1970s, and now there may be fewer than 1,000 birds remaining, chiefly in Strathspey.

This latest study, involving the radio-tagging of six females, allowed 12 possible breeding attempts to be followed. Nine clutches were laid of which six then hatched, with three probably predated by pine martens. Of the six broods, only two fledged chicks, a chick survival rate of just 8%. The low chick survival could be due to predation, poor post-hatch weather or impacts of sheep tick, but these all require further study.

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