Frequently Asked Questions

Up to date and accurate information about the project. If you have a question that's not answered, please get in touch.

How much funding has the project received and who from?

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

  • Balmoral Estate
  • Cairngorms National Park Authority
  • Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland
  • Forestry Grant Scheme
  • NatureScot
  • Rothiemurchus Estate
  • RSPB
  • Scottish Forestry
  • Seafield & Strathspey Estates

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.

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. It's generally accepted that without this work capercaillie may well have gone extinct in the UK. But capercaillie are still in a perilous state and 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 and delivered in partnership with:

  • Badenoch and Strathspey Trail Association
  • 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
  • NatureScot
  • Seafield and Strathspey Estates
What are the project's plans related to access?

Research shows that capercaillie tend to avoid areas near people, thereby limiting the amount of space they have to live. 

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 all work delivered through the project is 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. 

The project's Capercaillie Habitat Grant Scheme also aims to help other landmanagers undertake predator control for capercaillie which is not funded or viable through the Forestry Grant Scheme.

Is the project thinking about introducing capercaillie from abroad?

Capercaillie numbers in the UK are now so low that the population is likely to be experiencing a genetic bottleneck. This will limit the genetic diversity of the species and in the face of climate change, this could affect the birds’ ability to adapt and survive.

To investigate this issue over 1,000 capercaillie feathers have been collected by the project from across the National Park. By analysing the DNA from the feathers, and comparing it with other capercaillie populations in Europe and Scandinavia, we can identify what we need to do to help the birds and develop an action plan in response. This may involve exploring the reintroduction of 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.

Will the project’s work lead to more disturbance?

Raising public awareness of capercaillie could increase disturbance, or be perceived to do so. However, the project is actively working with communities across the National Park to reduce disturbance to capercaillie. This work is fundamental to the project and has never been done at scale before.

Signage and information has, for many years, been informing people that they are in a capercaillie area. In birding circles, news travels and if people really want to see capercaillie they will no doubt find a way. The difference now is that the project is working proactively with communities, like the birding community, to identify and deliver solutions to disturbance.

What research is the project carrying out to help capercaillie?

The project is researching the genetic diversity of the UK capercaillie population and whether it’s possible to produce a more accurate estimate of the size of the UK capercaillie population using genetic material gathered at lek sites. Knowing, more accurately, how many birds there are and how genetically diverse they are means we can significantly increase the effectiveness of conservation action for capercaillie. The project is also researching how people think and feel about capercaillie to help communities identify and deliver actions to help the species.

Will the project’s work help other species?

Yes. Reducing disturbance and improving and increasing over 10,000 hectares of habitat will help the other species that live alongside capercaillie, from wood ants to golden eagles.

What happens if capercaillie go extinct?

Expert opinion in the 1990s was that capercaillie would be extinct by around 2010. Efforts to help the bird at the time ensured that that did not happen. However, capercaillie still need our help and the project’s work is part of a collective approach currently being considered in light of the latest Scottish capercaillie lek data, which suggests that more needs to be done to build a future for the species as part of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy.

Why is habitat fragmentation an issue for capercaillie?

Capercaillie are a specialist species only able to survive in a narrow range of environmental conditions. They require extensive areas of Scots Pine dominated woodland. In the UK, this resource is only available in Scotland. A lack of suitable habitat is a known issue for capercaillie in the UK and a recognised cause of population decline. Limited habitat which is also fragmented by a busy, multifunctional landscape, can cause capercaillie populations to become isolated. This can compromise their genetic health and increases the likelihood of inbreeding. Less habitat means capercaillie may also be more prone to the impacts of predation and human disturbance.

If you have a question that's not answered above please do get in touch.