The droppings of the endangered capercaillie are to be studied by researchers hoping to find a way to save the bird.
There are only about 900 capercaillie in Scotland
Experts from Dundee University said their findings will indicate the state of the bird's health and also which habitats are most suitable.
Droppings are being collected from four Scottish habitats - an island in Loch Lomond, Abernethy Forest, Glen Tannar and Glen Morangie.
There are only about 900 birds left in Scotland.
Stress or illness
The study will look at the amount of parasite eggs in the faeces of the capercaillies, the world's largest grouse.
Parasites indicate the bird is suffering from stress or illness, which make it less likely to reproduce, the experts said.
The Capercaillie became extinct in Scotland at the end of the 19th century but
was reintroduced from Scandinavia.
However since 1970, 95% of its 20,000 population has been lost and only around
900 birds now remain in Scotland, the RSPB estimates.
Unfavourable weather, poor quality ground cover, mortality from flying into
deer fences and predators such as foxes and crows have all contributed.
Keith Skene, a lecturer in the division of environmental and applied biology
in the university's school of life sciences, praised the new method as "an
He said: "It's easy, inexpensive and provides so much accurate and valuable
information for assessing the health of populations and their ultimate
"We hope to have completed our comparative study of the four habitats by May
next year, allowing us to correlate Capercaillie stress with key habitat
"This will allow us to make recommendations to ensure that the Capercaillie
lives and thrives in Scotland for many generations to come."