The Wood Grouse is a large dark grouse of coniferous forests. This is the largest species of this family, closely associated to forest. Their mating displays are really spectacular.
The adult male has dark plumage, slate grey and narrowly vermiculated, mostly blackish on head and neck. Wings are dark brown with conspicuous white carpal patch.
Upper and undertail-coverts and underparts are dark grey to blackish, with variable amount of white, forming spots or streaks. Underwing-coverts are white. Breast is dark glossy blue/green. Tail is long and rounded with white-tipped feathers and shaft-streaks on rectrices, forming light whitish patches.
Strong bill is yellowish-white. Eyes are brown, with bright red comb above. Robust legs and feet are dark grey.
The female is smaller than male. She has cryptic plumage overall, barred and mottled black, grey and buff. We can see a rusty breast patch. The tail is rounded and rufous.
Length: M: 87 cm – F: 60 cm
Wingspan: 87-125 cm
Weight: 3900-4300 g (up to 6500 g) – F: 1700-2000 g
The Wood Grouse in winter feeds primarily on pine needles from several pines’ species. It feeds in trees at least for five months in North, but once the snow-cover disappeared, it comes to the ground.
During other periods and in summer, its diet includes needles, leaves, stems and berries of various plant species. Chicks feed on insects.
The Capercaillie is mainly sedentary in its range, only performing local movements in winter according to weather conditions and food resources.
The Wood Grouse frequents forest and woodland, usually coniferous such as Pinus sylvestris, Picea, Abies and others, and mixed forest too. It is mostly found in wide areas of old, shady forest with damp soil and bogs, and dense undergrowth.
During winter, it can be seen in more open forest in the northern parts of the range, but during summer, it frequents dense forest with fruiting bushes where this species can breed and moult. In south of range, it is only found in mountain forest.
Calls and songs:
The Wood Grouse male can be very vocal during displays, producing series of knocking sounds, sometimes similar to sticks being taped together “plip-plip-plip-itit-t-t klop”, the last note recalls the sound of a cork popping from a bottle!
This series is followed by repeated harsh rasping wheezes. The male also produces loud guttural bubbling.
The female often utters several calls when watching for displaying males, with one similar to the “crow” of pheasants.
Methods of hunting permitted for use:
- hunting during spawning period (in spring),
- ambush hunting,
- using duck calls,
- hunting birds,
- stuffed animals and profiles,
- hunting dogs
Permitted hunting tools:
Hunting fire smooth-bore long-barreled arms; cold bladed hunting weapon
The meat has quite a coarse texture which is good roasted or minced. Wood Grouse meat has a strong flavor and in older birds the diet of pine needles can leave a trace. Younger birds have a milder flavor.
Don’t slow cook Wood Grouse, or you’ll get a casserole that tastes of liver.
A female Wood Grouse will feed about 4 people. A male will serve a group of between 5 and 8 people.
Don’t have the oven too low, it needs to be 120°C or more.
The meat is dark and has a clearly gamey flavor.
Roast capercaillie breast is delicious. One breast will serve 4:
Brown the meat in plenty of butter with crushed garlic.
Place the breast in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with herbs and put the capercaillie in the oven at 120°C to an internal temperature of 54-56°C.
Leave the meat to cool and carve into thin slices.
Cook the capercaillie whole at 170-180°C to an internal temperature of 70°C.
The basics when roasting whole birds:
Remove the giblets. Save the liver, heart and gizzard (e.g. for the sauce).
Wipe the bird dry and remove any feathers with tweezers.
Add fat under the skin, e.g. bacon and/or lard.
Season on the outside and on the inside.
Tie the bird into a neat shape for more even cooking.
Juices run clear = completely cooked.
Leave the meat to rest!
Make Wood Grouse meatballs: Use half capercaillie and half pork mince to make them juicier. A creamy calvados sauce is the perfect accompaniment.