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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 23:45 GMT 00:45 UK
Capercaillie numbers 'double'
Capercaillie - Chris Gomersall/RSPB Images
The capercaillie has had a precarious existence
Conservation campaigners are delighted that Capercaillie numbers have doubled in the past five years.

The population of the endangered bird, once predicted the most likely to become extinct in the next 15 years, has risen to about 2,000 since 1999.

The capercaillie is the largest bird in the grouse family, at about the size of a turkey.

The RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage survey was assisted by Forestry Commission Scotland.

The capercaillie population had been in constant decline since the 1970s, when they were thought to number as many as 20,000.

The species was wiped out in the UK in the late 1700s and was successfully reintroduced in the 1830s.

A concentrated effort has been made since then to save the capercaillie from disappearing in Scotland for a second time.

The removing of deer fencing and legal predator control in key capercaillie areas are among the reasons thought to be behind the bird's recent change in fortune.

It is too early to know if we are likely to see a longer term recovery
Kenny Kortland
Good weather during recent breeding seasons is also thought to have helped.

The survey discovered that most of the birds were found in the Strathspey region.

Kenny Kortland, capercaillie project officer for RSPB Scotland, said: "This very positive result can be attributed to the huge effort made by many public and private forest managers in recent years to save this species.

"However, the population is still comparatively small and needs to be increased further to ensure its future viability.

"We are currently working on long-term management plans with numerous foresters, so the outlook is bright."

John Markland, chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage, said: "The combination of removing deer fences, which are known to cause capercaillie deaths, conservation measures to give the bird a better chance during the breeding season, and improved weather seems to be arresting its decline.

"Although it is too early to know if we are likely to see a longer term recovery in numbers this survey is certainly very good news for the capercaillie and conservation in Scotland."

Scotland's endangered capercaillie are the subject of a 5m European Union-funded action plan aimed at reversing their population decline.

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30 Nov 03  |  Scotland
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29 Dec 02  |  Scotland
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14 Oct 02  |  Scotland
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01 Sep 01  |  Scotland

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