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Capercaillie

Tetrao urogallus

Classe: Uccelli (Aves)

Dimensions: length: male 75-95 cm, female 58-68 cm. The female can reach a weight of 2 kg, the male even of 5 kg

Life: 9 years

Habitat: large and quiet mixed conifer and broadleaf tree forests, with old trees, with branches strong enough to sustain the bird's weight and high enough to allow this large bird's take-off; clearings with undergrowth plants. Generally between 1,000 and 1,500 meters.

Diet: in winter mainly conifer needles, in spring the buds of the undergrowth; in summer and autumn, berries and fruits such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, red currants, bear berries. Females and babies, moreover, feed on insects and other invertebrates.

Reproduction: at the end of the winter, males conquer a space in the singing and parade arenas; the latter are clearings where at the end of March these birds begin their display lasting until the end of May. Females flock (every single male can mate with several females) and, once they have been fecundated, they leave the arena, among the underwood trees.

Cubs: they are born after about 25 days of incubation, in June, and from the third day of life they can scratch around with their mother. During their first month of life, their diet mainly consists of insects and other small invertebrates their mother teaches them to search. Afterwards, they feed like adults. During the summer they learn from their mother how to feed and defend themselves from dangers. In autumn they leave the family.

Curiosities: in order to defend her eggs or babies from intruders, the mother performs the so-called "diversion parade": pretending to be wounded, she drags herself far away and let herself be chased, in order to divert the enemy's attention from the nest.

Notes: male and female are completely different, to the extent that in the past people thought they belonged to two different species. This strong tetraonid can survive even during the coldest winters, waiting for spring on an old tree and feeding only on pine and fir needles it can easily digest. In the warm season it spends its time on the ground, in the undergrowth, searching for fruits and berries. The spectacular wedding parades increase the charm of this bird, which suffers from an alarming decrease.

In the Park: the species is rather rare and lives in the north-eastern section of the Park (Caiada, Val Vescovà, Valle Imperina, Val Pegolera, Mt. Cirvoi, Val Prampér); however, a few places are regularly chosen each year for their display.

Western Capercaillie
Western Capercaillie
(photo by Ottorino Mazzucco)
 
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