Facts about black grouse & capercaillie
Black grouse is a member of the grouse family and is found in the northern Palearctic ecozone. In Sweden it is found from Skåne to Lapland, mainly on heaths and marshes and on forested mountainsides.
The black grouse is easily recognisable due to the shape of its tail, described as lyre-shaped. The male (cock) is black with a bluish throat and back. It has red wattles and a white spot on the wings. The female (hen) is speckled in black, rusty yellow and grey and has shorter and straighter side feathers in its tail. The black grouse in about 40–58 cm long.
Black grouse eat from plants, such as their buds, leaves, seeds and berries, but also eat insects, grubs and worms. Birch buds are their main winter food and, when the black grouse is not looking for food, it shelters from the wind and cold in holes in the snow.
The black grouse starts its lek (courting dance) early in the spring on the ground and up in the trees. When it does this is it ruffles itself up and lies close to the ground, runs around and jumps on others, lets its wings hang, and spreads out its tail. There are often hard battles during the lek.
Because of its delicious meat, the black grouse is valuable game for hunters. Black grouse are hunted in the autumn with barking bird dogs and with pointing bird dogs. In the winter, stalking with a rifle is the most common form of hunting. Black grouse were placed in the Tetrao family with capercaillie in 1967.
The capercaillie is very large, heavy bird in the Galliformes order that is like the black grouse, but it differs from this due to its larger size and rounded tail. The capercaillie is a forest bird, found in open coniferous forests in northern and central Europe and northern Asia. The capercaillie’s global distribution covers more than 10 million square kilometres and its population is estimated at 5–10 million. In Sweden, the capercaillie is found from Skåne all the way up to the mountains of Lapland.
The capercaillie is normally quiet, but in the spring when they are courting they have three different calls: pops, clicks and sighs. In calm weather the can be heard at distances of 150 metres. However, the most impressive sound is the burping, rustling sounds that the cock makes at rival males. Capercaillie lekking begins in the morning, at 3–4 o’clock, and first the male calls from the tree in which he spent the night, before moving to the ground, where violent battles also take place.
In the summer, the capercaillie mainly lives on the ground, but always spends the night in the trees, apart from the females during nesting and when the chicks are small. Their food is primarily the same as that of the black grouse, but their most important food source when there’s no snow is the bilberry. All of the plant, including the leaves, is used by the capercaillie. During the winter, pine needles are their primary food source.
Capercaillie is an appreciated game bird in Sweden and Norway and is counted as big game by hunters. In Sweden it is mainly hunted in the north and in the central areas of the country. Capercaillie is hunted in the same way as black grouse.