In Switzerland, capercaillie populations have been declining since the end of the 1940s. The area of distribution of this species is likewise shrinking. As a result, the sub-populations that remain are becoming increasingly isolated from each other and are more and more likely to disappear.
In the early 1970s, measures to conserve the capercaillie were adopted by individual foresters and biologists. Since 1988, these activities have been coordinated by the Swiss Ornithological Institute at Sempach, on behalf of the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL). However, the population survey carried out in 2001 indicated that the measures taken so far were not sufficient to stop the decline of the capercaillie.
Results of the Swiss national capercaillie censuses from 1968, 1971, 1985 and 2001 (Mollet et al. 2003).
No. of leks confirmed
Total no. of leks (estimated)
No. of cocks counted
Total no. of cocks (estimated)
At least 1100
Future conservation strategy
SAEFL and the Swiss Ornithological Institute intend to reorganize and intensify the capercaillie conservation efforts. The aim is that the species should regain the population levels and area of distribution that were observed in 1970. The new conservation strategy involves the regionalization of the Swiss capercaillie project. Five sub-populations can be distinguished in Switzerland, each of which faces different problems and therefore also requires different measures to be defined. In future, as part of a project managed at the national level, specific action plans are to be developed in cooperation with experts from the various regions concerned, so that problems and priority measures can be defined for each sub-population. The development of action plans and support for the implementation of regional measures will be financed by SAEFL. As far as possible, implementation of specific measures is to be financed by means of the normal federal and cantonal subsidies.
In November 2002, a one-day conference entitled "Will the capercaillie survive in Switzerland?" was organized by SAEFL. Speakers from Switzerland, Germany and France reported on the current state of research and on the status of the capercaillie in Switzerland and in neighbouring countries. There followed a discussion of the implementation of conservation measures and of the future conservation strategy.