Wildlife in Italy: Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus

Wildlife in Italy: Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus

Systematic classification and distribution

Class: Birds
Order: Galliformes
Family: grouse
Kind: Tetrao
Species: urogallus

In the Alps the capercaillie was once present continuously, with populations characterized by good densities in all mature forests where the species finds the best living conditions. Its range subsequently suffered a strong contraction and practically extinction in the Western Alps. Its presence has gradually decreased even in the Central Alps, where it is present only locally and with particularly low consistencies. Also in the Eastern Alps, where to date (2007) the species is still distributed with sufficient continuity, the stocks have gradually decreased in a worrying way. Moving from west to east, the first large populations on the Alpine arc are found in Trentino, particularly within the Adamello-Brenta Natural Park. As confirmation of the problematic status of the species, the capercaillie is protected by various European and national regulations. The causes of decrease of the capercaillie, like those of the other alpine tetraonids, are unclear and probably multiple (the main ones seem to be the anthropic disturbance linked above all to tourist flows and climate changes). In order to better understand these causes, in 2007 the Adamello-Brenta Natural Park, with the collaboration of the Forests and Fauna Service of the Autonomous Province of Trento, started a multi-year research on galliforms, and in particular on the capercaillie.

Capercaillie male

Male and female capercaillie

Distinctive characters

- male 75-95 cm, female 58-68 cm.
- male up to 5 kg, female up to 2 kg.
The sexual dimorphism is evident: the female has a plumage of a uniform brown color; the male instead has a black neck and tail, while the wings are brown, has a white spot on the shoulder and a red one above the eye; imaschi also show a bristly beard in the throat.


In winter it feeds mainly on conifer needles, in spring on buds and shoots of the undergrowth, in summer and autumn on berries and fruits such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, currants, bearberry. The females and chicks also feed on insects and other invertebrates.
It is sedentary: in summer it lives almost exclusively on the ground from which it moves making short flights, while in winter, especially the male, it leads arboreal life. The preferred habitat is the large coniferous forests with open areas with good shrub cover which constitutes an important source of food during the reproductive period. During the mating period (April-May) the males stage, in the half-open places of the forest, spectacular love parades to attract the females, with singing performances, ritual movements and the display of tail feathers. The 5/10 eggs are laid in a depression in the ground and sometimes sheltered by a bush or a young conifer with low branches. The hatching lasts about 4 weeks. The young are immediately able to follow the mother; the brood melts in the autumn. The success of the broods depends on the meteorological conditions in the reproductive period and above all on the disturbances present in its environment (forestry activities, tourist activities - e.g. works on the slopes and ski facilities, etc.).

Video: National Geographic - Italian Wildlife - New Documentary HD 2018 (October 2021).