Family Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse (Phasianidae)

Least Concern

Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus)


French: Grand Tétras German: Auerhuhn Spanish: Urogallo común
Other common names: Eurasian Capercaillie

Tetrao Urogallus


, 1758,



Closely related to T. urogalloides, with which very commonly hybridizes where ranges overlap in Siberia (in one area up to 12% of males reported to be hybrids); hybrids with Lyrurus tetrix also common and with Lagopus lagopus occasional. Subspecies name crassirostris replaces major, as latter preoccupied. Many of proposed races clearly intergrade, and sometimes reduced essentially to two, with nominate in N and taczanowskii in S & E (these two differ clearly, latter having largely white belly, vent and “trousers”, but they are linked by very extensive intergradation zone#R); this option, however, probably oversimplistic. At least three phylogeographical studies found evidence for treating Pyrenean and Cantabrian populations as a separate evolutionary unit from all other populations#R; one of these studies, however, found close similarities between populations from Balkans and Pyrenees#R. Otherwise, rudolfi sometimes included in crassirostris, obsoletus in kureikensis, and lonnbergi, karelicus and pleskei in nominate. Other proposed races are lugens (from Finland), a presumed variant of nominate; hiomanus (thought to be from Baltic countries), included in crassirostris; and grisescens (extreme SE European Russia), subsumed within uralensis. Full review desirable. Thirteen subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. u. urogallus Linnaeus, 1758 – Scandinavia; Scotland (where reintroduced).
  • T. u. lonnbergi Snigirevski, 1957 – Kola Peninsula.
  • T. u. karelicus Lönnberg, 1924 – Finland and Russian Karelia.
  • T. u. cantabricus Castroviejo, 1967 – Cantabrian Mts (NW Spain).
  • T. u. aquitanicus Ingram, 1915 – Pyrenees.
  • T. u. crassirostris C. L. Brehm, 1831 – C Europe from Germany and Alps E to SW Baltic states, W Belarus and E Carpathians, and S to Macedonia.
  • T. u. rudolfi Dombrowski, 1912 – Carpathians in Ukraine and Romania, and Rhodope Mts in Bulgaria.
  • T. u. pleskei Stegmann, 1926 – Belarus, N Ukraine and most of European Russia.
  • T. u. obsoletus Snigerewski, 1937 – from L Onega through N Russia and N Siberia to upper R Lena.
  • T. u. kureikensis Buturlin, 1927 – NC Siberia.
  • T. u. volgensis Buturlin, 1907 – C Russia.
  • T. u. uralensis Nazarov, 1886 – S Urals and SW Siberia E to Barnaul.
  • T. u. taczanowskii (Stejneger, 1885) – C Siberia S to Altai Mts in E Kazakhstan and NW Mongolia.
  • Descriptive notes

    80–115 cm, female much smaller, 59–64 cm; male 3300–4300 g (up to 6500 g), female 1440–2500 g. Large, very dark grouse, mostly slate-grey with fine... read more


    Song (given by male) rather complex and audible over up to 200 m, commences with low-intensity... read more


    Forest and woodland, mainly coniferous (especially Pinus sylvestris, but also Picea... read more

    Food and feeding

    During winter mainly pine needles, constituting up to 100% in Finland and Scotland, mostly P. sylvestris, but also P. cembra... read more


    Lays mainly in May (mid Apr to mid Jun); varies with latitude. Promiscuous (or polygynous, with some males briefly possessing harems);... read more


    Mainly sedentary, but often with local movements in winter in response to feeding requirements, e.g... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Cyclical population changes probably linked to food quality, specifically bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) production in some... read more

    Recommended citation

    de Juana, E. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 27 February 2020).