Capercaillie on the verge of extinction again warns Sir David Attenborough

The capercaillie could become extinct in Scotland once again, warns Sir David Attenborough during an episode of BBC One’s Wild Isles.

The episode on March 19 focused on the woodlands of the UK, with filmmakers capturing footage of this elusive icon of the Highlands.

Camera operators spent two years at a secret location in the pine forests near Aviemore to capture footage of a lek, a meeting of male capercaillies who fight for female attention.

One alpha male displays himself in front of nine females while other males look on, however, one decides it’s worth a challenge.

A fight soon ensues with each male using their wings and beaks to batter and rip feathers from their opponent.

david attenborough
Sir David Attenborough warns Scottish capercaillies could go away from forests again. Image: David Parry/PA Wire.

This rare footage also comes with a stark warning from Sir Attenborough, who said this “display” could be a thing of the past.

He said: “The species as a whole, however, is losing its battle to survive in the Scottish Highlands.

‘Extraordinary sights and sounds may disappear from our woodlands’

“Capercaillie became extinct in Britain once before, back in the 18th century, and now a combination of disturbance, predation and poor quality habitat is pushing these birds to the brink once more.

“Soon these extraordinary sights and sounds may disappear from our woodlands for a second time.”

Capercaillies were reintroduced into the Scottish wilderness in 1837 after becoming extinct in the 1700s.

Since then, these birds have been in rapid decline with an estimated 540 thought to be left roaming the Cairngorms National Park.

Capercaillies are mostly confined to the pine forests of the Cairngorms National Park. Image: Mark Hamblin/Cairngorms National Park Authority.

They are included in the UK Birds of Conservation Concern Red List as they are in real danger of disappearing once again.

Chris Howard, producer of last night’s episode, told The Scotsman that over the course of filming the number of capercaillies halved from 1,000 to around 500.

He said: “It took us two years but the result was worth it. Thanks to the remote cameras and the fact that we put so much effort into being as far away as possible for minimum disturbance, the birds just acted naturally.

“We are so close to losing them again. It feels like this is the last chance saloon.”

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[Capercaillie on the verge of extinction again warns Sir David Attenborough]


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