We're keen to ensure people can easily access up to date and accurate information about the project, so if you have a question that's not answered below please do get in touch.

How much funding has the project received and who from?

From 2018 to 2020 the project was funded by:

  • National Lottery Heritage Fund
  • Scottish Landfill Communities Fund
  • RSPB
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Scottish Forestry
  • Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust
  • Cairngorms National Park Authority

Together these organisations secured the project's total budget of £517,700 to support the project through its Development Phase, which ended in March 2020.

In March 2020, an application was submitted to the National Lottery Heritage Fund securing further funding to deliver the project’s plans from July 2020 to July 2023. 

The total project budget from July 2020 to July 2023 is £2.9 million, consisting of a £2,036,100 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) and £873,029 of match funding.

The NLHF grant constitutes funds from the National Lottery.  These funds are reinvested into the country’s natural and cultural heritage and can not be spent on other priorities. This grant is not public money. 

£149,000 of the total project budget from July 2020 to July 2023 is made up of public money, donated by the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Forestry.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority does not receive funding from the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project.

Previous funding for capercaillie conservation, in particular from the European LIFE fund and Scottish Forestry, significantly improved conditions for capercaillie from the late 1990s to 2006. The best conservation science at the time suggested that capercaillie would be extinct in Scotland by around 2010.  The fact that we didn't lose them is testament to the efficacy of the conservation work at the time, and the continued efforts since.  But capercaillie are still in a precarious state and still need our help.  This is not unusual when dealing with a highly vulnerable species.

Who's involved in the project?

The project is led by the Cairngorms Natonal Park Authority.  The following organisations and groups are involved in developing and delivering the project from July 2020 to July 2023:

  • Balmoral Estate
  • Brook Forestry
  • Cairngorms Business Partnership
  • Carrbridge Capercaillie Group
  • Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland
  • Forestry and Land Scotland
  • Groves Forestry
  • Rothiemurchus Estate
  • RSPB
  • Scottish Forestry
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Seafield and Strathspey Estates

Since the project began in 2018, the following organisations have also been involved:

  • Bird Watching & Wildlife Club
  • Cairngorms Local Outdoor Access Forum
  • Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust
  • Inclusive Cairngorms
  • Petal Power
What is the project doing about deer fencing?

Research has found that unmarked deer fences are a cause of mortality in woodland grouse and by marking fences capercaillie collisions have been reduced by 64%. The project has therefore been working with estates, including Seafield Estate and Balmoral Estate, to mark fences in capercaillie areas.

Fences can be marked with both wooden droppers and plastic netting. The issue of the use of plastic netting is one that the project is aware of and the use of plastic is avoided wherever possible. Fencing has therefore been marked with wooden droppers whenever this method is viable.

The choice of material used for marking is based on the age of the fence and the impact of the material on the fence. Older fences and those in exposed areas are unable to bear the weight of wooden droppers. Bamboo canes have been used as an alternative, but are not always effective so on particular sites, plastic netting is used as this extends the life of the fence and still reduces the potential for capercaillie mortalities.

What are the project's plans related to access?

Research shows that our activities in the landscape can reduce the living space available for capercaillie. In response, the project is working with communities to identify sustainable solutions that ensure people and capercaillie can thrive alongside each other.

Solutions may involve improving path networks for more people to enjoy in areas that are not sensitive for capercaillie. The project will not be introducing byelaws or access restrictions and remains compliant with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. 

What is the project doing about predators?

Foxes and crows are amongst the main predators of capercaillie and for many years they’ve been controlled by some land owners and managers to benefit the species. Others have decided not to control predators to allow for ecological restoration and the establishment of a wider range of predators to create balance.   

Pine martens and badgers are also known to prey on capercaillie but as protected species they can only be controlled subject to and under licence in specific circumstances. 

The project respects the range of views related to legal predator control and is not seeking to impose any one view on others. The project itself is the coming together of organisations and communities that collectively hold a range of views on the matter. 

The project was set up to benefit capercaillie and given the critical status of the species, with possibly less than 1000 birds left in the UK, advocates an effective, evidence based approach. In accordance with this approach the project is supporting predator control for capercaillie where land managers wish to undertake it.

Funding for predator control is already available through the Forestry Grant Scheme (FGS) but is restricted to areas within 1.5km of a lek and not on open ground. During the project's development phase, areas were identified on both Seafield Estate and Rothiemurchus Estate where these criteria limit the ability of both estates to maintain effective levels of predator control to benefit capercaillie. 

In response, the project has and will continue to provide grant support to both estates to undertake predator control work for capercaillie on behalf of the project. 

In the case of Seafield Estate this support is helping to fund a new full-time gamekeeper and on Rothiemurchus Estate, a seasonal gamekeeper.  The work that the gamekeepers are undertaking is complementary to that already carried out under FGS on both estates and provides increased effort in targeted areas.  Both estates are also match funding the financial support provided by the project. 

Is the project thinking about introducing capercaillie from abroad?

Capercaillie numbers are now so low there could be a bottleneck in the gene pool. In the face of climate change this could affect the birds’ ability to adapt and survive. To investigate the issue over 1000 capercaillie feathers have been collected by the project. Using the DNA in these feathers we can assess whether capercaillie in the UK are on the brink of a harmful genetic bottleneck.

Once this research is complete actions will be developed in response. This may, for example involve exploring the idea of introducing birds from abroad to help expand the gene pool. 

However, the successful reintroduction of a ground-nesting bird like the capercaillie is not without significant challenges. Of 21 attempted reintroductions across the capercaillie range, only the Scottish reintroduction in the 1830s is known to have been successful, and this saw the birds introduced into a very different landscape than we have today. 

Great care and planning will therefore be required to ensure that any project of this sort is successful.  The evidence from other attempts suggests that rear and release of capercaillie chicks is unlikely to work.  A more likely technique would be the transport of fully grown birds from abroad.