Why Lek It Be

We can all increase the chances of capercaillie breeding successfully.

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Capercaillie need our help

There are only 532 capercaillie left in the UK.

That's half the number of birds we had five years ago and the lowest recorded level in the last 30 years.

Now one of our most vulnerable birds, the Cairngorms National Park is the last remaining stronghold for capercaillie in the UK, with very few birds remaining elsewhere.

Disturbance is one of the pressures that is pushing capercaillie closer to extinction as it can stop the birds from breeding, impact their health and cause them to avoid the habitat they need to survive.

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Lek It Be begins

In 2022, a birder found on a lek site was arrested for disturbance. Over 15 birders and photographers found around other lek sites were also at risk of committing a wildlife crime by disturbing breeding capercaillie.

Over 60% of commercial operators offering guided wildlife tours in the Cairngorms were looking for capercaillie during the breeding season or using capercaillie in their spring marketing. Photographers were also sharing images of capercaillie and sensitive locations online during the breeding season.

In response, the Lek It Be campaign was launched in 2023 to reduce disturbance to capercaillie during the breeding season and promote adherence to the law. As a protected species, it is a wildlife crime to intentionally or recklessly disturb breeding capercaillie.

A good start in 2023

Members of the birding, photography and guiding community spread the news asking people to Lek It Be and not look for capercaillie during the breeding season. The vast majority of birders, photographers and guides responded to the rally cry and left capercaillie in peace.

67% of commercial operators offering guided wildlife experiences in the Cairngorms also volunteered to become Lek It Be Champions and not look for capercaillie or use capercaillie to market their tours.

Less birders, photographers and guides were encountered during dawn patrols compared to 2022 and all those encountered responded positively to guidance, with the exception of three birders and a wildlife guide who were given appropriate advice by Police Scotland.

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This breeding season

Thanks to the vast majority of birders, photographers and wildlife guides choosing not to look for capercaillie in 2023, this breeding season is all about keeping up the good work.

To help, new guidance has been published about responsible access in capercaillie areas. Wildlife guides who are Lek It Be Champions will be leading the way and not looking for capercaillie. Rangers will be on hand from dawn throughout April and May to offer alternative capercaillie-friendly routes for anyone looking to see other forest species at first light.

Police officers will be patrolling paths around lek sites from dawn and CCTV will be in operation. Social media will also be monitored for images of capercaillie and sensitive locations being shared online.

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You can help

It has never been easier to play a part and reduce disturbance to capercaillie.