These rare birds apparently feel really at home in the Gutschwald forest nature reserve, and a nature filmmaker has been taken footage of the courtship ritual. The Office of Forests and Game emphasizes that the birds should not be disturbed.
The stocks of capercaillie (wood grouse or, in German, Auerhuhn) have been declining since the 1950s, and their range has been reduced at the same time. Across Switzerland, the numbers of the largest bird in Europe are less than one thousand. In order to secure the capercaillie population in Switzerland in the long term, the Confederation and the cantons have therefore declared protected areas. The canton of Zug is also involved in this, and has successfully implemented appropriate measures with the corporations, who are the major forest owners.
In two nature reserves - Türlistock (Unterägeri) and Gutschwald (Oberägeri) - forest care was specifically targeted at the habitat requirements of the capercaillie. "This has been successful, as evidenced by sightings and a monitoring programme. The animals are dependent on trouble-free, loosely stocked and richly structured coniferous forests at higher altitudes," writes the Zug Office for Forests and Game in a statement.
A displaying capercaillie in the Gutschwald area: This photo was taken on 18 May 2020.
Surprised bikers and interested onlookers
According to the Office for Forests and Wild, two capercaillie in the Gutschwald area in Oberägeri are currently perform veritable ballet routines. With their tails fanned open and held straight up, stretching their heads upwards and making loud gurgling sounds, they currently impress not only any females that are present, but also visitors to the forest. "We receive report of impressive encounters from passers, both on and next to the official network of paths. Some people are a little frightened, but most are worried about the rare capercaillie," says Martin Ziegler, Head of the Office for Forests and Game. Such encounters are usually very rare. This year is different, which is why the events have attracted onlookers. "It is extremely important to leave the displaying cocks well alone and to avoid them where possible, despite their sometimes intrusive behaviour," Ziegler warns. This is important in order not to deter the rather shy females. Only in this way would there be a chance for offspring or a nest (German = Gelege, as it is referred to technically).
High visitor numbers are becoming a problem
Information boards indicate that only the official paths may be used in the forest nature reserve. But, unfortunately, some people do not observe the rules, regrets forester Karl Henggeler. "Even barred walking paths and bike paths are still used or ridden on. The branch material that has been used to block the path is simply moved away or bypassed."
It’s normally welcomed that the forest has became an important recreation area for many people – not least because of the current travel restrictions. Unfortunately, however, the large number of visitors puts additional pressure on the natural life there, as the example of the displaying capercaillies shows, continues the communication. in principle, there is a free right of access to the forest,. "But restrictions will have to be discussed in certain sensitive places in the near future, in order to protect particularly trouble-prone species in the Zug Forest," says the Office of Forests and Game.