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Case Studies > Protecting the capercaillie

Glen Tanar Estate

Case Study Protecting the capercaillie Glen Tanar Estate
Case Study Protecting the capercaillie Glen Tanar estate in Royal Deeside is managed by owners Michael and Claire Bruce, alongside a team of skilled staff, combining modern management techniques with traditional knowledge and care.

Working with a variety of partners including the Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage, they blend a number of different land uses to deliver a multitude of local and national benefits, contributing to the latest thinking in habitat management.

One endangered species that the estate is trying to conserve is the Capercaillie, a large woodland bird about the size of a turkey. This work is being carried out on the Glen Tanar National Nature Reserve, a Special Protection Area under European law, where every effort is being made to reverse the decline in numbers seen in recent years. The conservation work, carried out in conjunction with Scottish Natural Heritage, starts by making sure that the birds have enough food to eat. All around the edges of, and even within, the Caledonian pinewood, the estate staff have been busy burning, swiping, strimming, and clearing patches of heather and bracken, as well as thinning the woods to encourage the growth of blaeberry, an important food plant of capercaillie. The blaeberry plant provides caterpillars and other insect-life for the chicks to eat, and the leaves and berries are a favourite of adult birds.

The capercaillie also needs a varied habitat where it can find both plentiful supplies of food and adequate shelter. For the young capercaillie especially, it is important to have good shelter from the elements and from predators such as hawks. To improve the habitat the estate is building brushwood shelters, thinning parts of the forest to increase light for trees and shrubs to regenerate. Birds sometimes collide with deer fences, so staff at Glen Tanar are removing fences where possible and marking essential fences to make them more visible to the birds.

Visitors to the estate are asked to play their part by considering how people and dogs can cause harm to the capercaillie. Dogs can frighten the hen bird, causing it to fly off leaving her young chicks alone and vulnerable to predators, and people can disturb the adults and prevent them from breeding. Those accessing the estate are asked to keep to the tracks and ensure that dogs are kept on a lead.

Glen Tanar also forms a substantial part of the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland’s largest national park. Land uses are balanced through careful management to ensure a long-term future for all rare wildlife and plants, and this approach to conservation has won Glen Tanar a number of awards, including the Green Butterfly Award for outstanding work with caperaillie, The estate was also awarded the coveted “Certificate of Responsible Forest Management”, confirming that the estate’s woodlands are managed to the exacting standards of the UK Woodland Assurance Standard.
Scottish Land & Estates
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