New lek data reveals challenges for capercaillie

New Scottish capercaillie lek data suggests that the population is in decline and more needs to be done to build a future for the species, according to papers to go before the board of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA).

Friday, 11th June 2021, 12:00 am
New lek data has revealed that the capercaillie population is in decline.
New lek data has revealed that the capercaillie population is in decline.

Lek counts in Spring 2021 show a year by year decline from 230 male birds in 2015 to 150 in 2021 – a 35 per cent decline in six years.

Factors affecting capercaillie include lack of habitat, low productivity, predation, collisions with unmarked fences, disturbance, climate change and possibly low genetic diversity in the remaining population.

At the Cairngorms National Park Authority Board meeting today (Friday, June 11), capercaillie feature in the organisation’s Strategic Risk Management and Monitoring Corporate Performance report as well as the Cairngorms Nature Action Plan 2019-2022 mid-term update.

Both reports detail progress across a range of activities and projects in the Park.

Grant Moir, Chief Executive at the CNPA explained: “Capercaillie are a key species that indicate the health and connectedness of our native pine woodlands.

"They are also a good indicator of whether we have the right balance that allows people and nature to thrive together.

"Expert opinion in the 1990s was that the population trajectory for caper in Scotland would lead to extinction of the bird by around 2010.

"That did not happen and this shows that the work of various caper projects over those two decades had a real impact.

"However, declines in the last six years indicates that this bird remains at risk.

“We will work together to develop a collective approach on a number of key issues relating to capercaillie and dovetail this with the ongoing work of the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project, which started its delivery phase in July 2020 to deliver a range of activities and actions.”

Mr Moir added: “Never the less, the seriousness of the situation has resulted in capercaillie being moved from ‘amber’ to ‘red’ in the Cairngorms Nature Action Plan.”

The full national capercaillie survey results are due next year but work is currently underway to try to establish a more accurate picture of the capercaillie population in Scotland.