The Capercailzie, or Cock of the Wood (Tetrao urogallus), Fig. 68, included in the Tetraonidae, sub-familyTetraoninae, is the largest species of grouse, about 2 ft. 10 in. in length, and weighing from 9 to 12 lb. The female is about one-third less than the male. In the male the elongated feathers of the throat are black, the rest of the neck and head ashy black, the eyebrows red, the iris clear brown, and the bill nearly 3 in. long, very strong, hooked, and of a whitish horn colour. The wings and shoulders are brown, sprinkled with small black dots; the breast variable green; the belly black with white spots; the rump and flanks black with zigzag lines of an ashy colour; and the tail feathers black, with some white spots near the extremities. The female is striped and spotted with red or bay, black and white, and has the feathers of the head ruddy, those of the breast deep red, and those of the tail ruddy with black stripes.

The nest of the capercailzie is built upon the ground, and contains from six to ten eggs of a reddish or yellowish brown. The young, when hatched, are fed upon insects. The old birds feed chiefly on vegetable substances, such as the buds and leaves of several trees, and on juniper and bilberries. The capercailzie, once frequent in the British Islands, has practically become extinct as a wild species though met with in Scotland; but though attempts (and successful) have been made to introduce it, the bird forms too tempting, large, and easy mark for the sportsman to be permitted to multiply. It breeds in confinement, and seems capable of semi-domestication similar to the pheasant. It is excellent eating, and may frequently be seen in the London shops. It lives in pine forests, feeding on the cones of the fir, which at some seasons give an unpleasant flavour to the flesh. Reintroduced from Norway, it prospers where it is well preserved, especially in Scotland.

The Capercailzie, or Cock of the Wood.

Fig. 68. - The Capercailzie, or Cock of the Wood.