On Friday I gave you this bird skull to identify:
Most of you managed to identify it pretty easily – Robin suggested something in the right family, while Ric Morris, henstridgesj, Matthew King and Jake all managed to work it out to species. This is the skull of a Western Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus Linnaeus, 1758.
These large members of the Pheasant and Grouse family (Phasianidae) are particularly impressive animals – or at least the males are, with their striking plumage and bright red eyebrows. They compete for females using a behaviour called leking where they set themselves in an arena within which they perform a strutting song and dance, usually alongside other males.
Unfortunately, these birds suffered a rapid decline during the 20th Century, largely due to changing land-use practices resulting in habitat loss and shortage of important winter foods. At present the RSPB estimate that fewer than 2,000 birds remain. Hopefully conservation efforts will be enough to keep these magnificent birds from going extinct.