The capercaillie is probably one of the most mythical birds of the northern hemisphere. It is associated with the hideous lindworm, a dragon-like creature of Swedish folklore, with princes in Central Europe hunting for hochwild, and all sorts of superstitious tales in Norway and Sweden involving forest sprites etc.
- The impressive mating display of the capercaillie takes place during the mating season in May.
- An adult rooster weighs 3.5-4.5 kg; in extreme cases 5,5 kg.
- The hen weighs 1.5-2.5 kg.
- The capercaillie can live to the age of 8 years. The rooster reaches adulthood at 3-4 years; the hen is sexually mature from 1.5 years.
From the age of about 3 years, the capercaillie rooster has his territory adjacent to the place chosen for his mating displays. In optimal vegetation, the outer limits of that area can be ca 1 km apart. The less suitable the area is for the bird’s biotope/habitat, the larger the area will be, and with more empty parts where the bird will not go. Younger birds are made to stay in the poorer quality parts of the area. The hen marks out territory when she has chicks in the summer months; during the rest of the year, she generally moves around over larger areas than the rooster does and she is not so dependent on the quality of the forest. After the mating period in May, she broods for just under a month and the eggs are hatched in mid-June. For the first few days after hatching, the chicks’ survival is very dependent on the weather/temperature. They must not become cold and wet (they risk freezing to death) and there must be plenty of insect activity since insects are practically the only food the chicks eat during the first month.
Biotopes: While there is seasonal variation, one of the favourite biotopes of the capercaillie is forest that lets in sunlight (fir forest with gaps or forest with a mixture of fir and pine) and with blueberry sprigs on the ground. Another favourite is marshy forest with hare’s-tail cottongrass. Large-scale forestry in the northern parts of Sweden has made it more difficult for the capercaillie to find suitable biotopes close to its mating site and this makes the birds move around over much larger areas than is normal in southern Sweden, especially when the seasons change and the capercaillie moves to the biotope of each respective season.
Younger birds have great respect for predators such as the goshawk, fox and marten and they prefer to stay in denser forest even though it is harder to find food there. Predators of the eggs and chicks are the jay, raven, fox, stoat etc. and also badger although they are less common up in the north.
- May-Oct.: hairy wood-rush, hare’s-tail cottongrass, cow wheat, blueberry sprigs, blueberry leaves
- Aug.-Sep.: blueberries, lingonberries, crowberries, bog wortleberries, aspen leaves, sedge seeds
- Summer: insects
- Nov.-May: pine needles
When the capercaillie eats pine needles, it grinds them with the help of small stones which it stores in its craw/gizzard. This is why capercaillie are often seen pecking at stones along the roadside.