Capercaillie lek

Capercaillie lek photography

Capercaillie lek photography. Photo: Staffan Widstrand

This is your chance to watch and photograph Capercaillies while in their lek, the well known courtship ceremony. The Capercaillie’s mating season lasts only during a few weeks by the end of April. Found in the Swedish woodlands Capercaillies are the biggest species of grouse in the world.

  • Good chances to see Capercaillies while in their courtship ceremony
  • Spend the night in a tent hide in the forest
  • Good opportunities for photography
  • Learn more about Capercaillies from our experienced guide
  • Rest at a cosy guesthouse with home cooked meals

If you plan to visit Sweden in Spring and you are into bird watching or nature photography then this is the trip for you. Sometimes called Wood Grouse or Western Capercaillie, this is the largest member of the grouse family, reaching over 100 cm in wing span and 5 kg in weight.

The preparations starts in the early evening as you must enter the hide well in advance of the Capercaillies’ arrival. Your tent hide is strategically located by a lek site in an open mature evergreen forest. The spot is chosen by a skilled guide in advance to increase your chances to be in the right position for photography.

The evening is quiet… As you sit and wait in the hide you hear nothing but natures’ own sounds. Birds singing, woodpeckers, squirrels munching pine cones., perhaps even some Wolves are howling in the distance. You will have plenty of time to eat your packed sandwiches and hot drinks. The first cocks and hens arrive during the late evening and they continue to arrive during the night’s dark hours, the sound of their wings flapping.

Fall asleep surrounded by nature. It is time to get some rest.

You wake up in the early morning as it is time for the Capercaillies’ mating display. The males perform an extraordinary dance, fanning their tails and holding their wings down, the males strut about and produce amazing gurgling, wheezing and popping noises. This is your ultimate chance to get some nice photos of one one nature’s true wonders.

Program for Capercaillie lek

Day 1  Introduction and night in hide

Meet up with your guide at the guesthouse in the afternoon. We sit down for some information about the tour as well as an introduction to Capercaillies and Sweden’s wildlife. In the early evening your guide will take you for a short drive and a walk out into an old forest where a tent hide is awaiting. Our guides have spend the previous nights out in the hide to make sure that your hide is located in just the right position for the Capercaillies mating display and for the best possible photo opportunities. You spend the evening hours in the hide listening for any thrushes singing and owls calling in the dark forest. Although you need to be in the hide in the evening, it is the morning hours that are of importance, so sleep well, you will need to get up early.


Day 2 – 3  Capercaillie mating display

Early morning, before it gets light. You will probably hear them before you see them. Now you have the chance to see and photograph one of natures most fascinating ceremonies, Capercaillies performing their mating display. Although we will do our very best to get you in the right place for the show, we can never guarantee that you will see any birds, nevertheless get the great photos you are hoping for. You may have to sit several nights to at least have a fair chance for success. As the morning turns into day the Capercaillies eventually leave the site and it is time for you to pack up and return to the guesthouse for a well deserved brunch.

If you stay more than one night you have access to a room at a nearby guesthouse. Treat yourself with a well deserved rest in a soft bed and a hot shower or spend the day exploring the surroundings. The area is rich in wildlife. You are in a Wolf territory, and there are of Moose, Beaver, Red Fox, Badgers, Black Grouse and Woodpeckers around, even Lynx. But they are difficult to spot, especially during daytime.

Rates (valid until 31 May, 2015)

  • 4950 SEK per person for two nights
  • 2550 SEK per person for one night

Included: Introduction, transfer to hide with return, guided walk to hide, night in tent hide, sleeping bag equipment, evening meal and brunch at the guesthouse. When you book more than one night we also include access to a room at the guesthouse.

Lodging: This tour includes lodging in a tent hide with sleeping bag equipment. If you book more than one night you will have access to lodging at a guesthouse near Skinnskatteberg.

Guided activities: An introduction and a short guiding to the hides.

Tour dates: The season is only between 17-26 April. See our tour calendar for scheduled dates.

When is best: The end of April usually offers the best opportunities to see the Capercaillie’s mating display.

Times: This tour starts at 16 hours day 1 and finishes at 12 hours on the last day. Please make sure that you are at the meeting location in time. Give us a call if you are late.

Location: This tour starts and finishes at Pensionat Udden guesthouse near Skinnskatteberg. See map below.

Suitability: Recommended minimum age is 18 years. Participants should be able to walk in the forest without difficulties. The walk is between 10-40 minutes depending on the location we choose. Note that the walk is sometimes across wet areas so waterproof boots or rubber boots is essential.

Group size: Maximum 6 participants. If you wish you may choose to stay two participants in the same hide.

Important information: Please note that watching or photographing Capercaillie’s is not an easy thing to do. While Capercaillies are often quite stationary during the lekking season, their lekking site is still a large area of approximately 200 x 200 meters. The visibility is limited. The undervegetaion is often lush with bransches laying on the ground and with trees partially covering the visibility. This is in opposite to the Black Grouse lekking sites which are often more open and with good visibility. During the early lekking period the cocks are often more spread out in their respective favourite spots and often up in the trees. It is only towards the end of the courting season that the hens arrive on the courting grounds, also called leks, meaning play in Swedish. Now the cocks continue courting somewhere on the ground. Although we can never predict the exact location for this we will of course try to do our best based on our experience from earlier years. After the intensive peak of the lekking period the cocks return to their own habitats and continue their display for about a week.

As they are quite sensible to weather they may choose to pause their mating display due to rain and heavy wind.

With all the factors mentioned above you may understand that it can be a difficilt task to watch the Capercaillie’s mating display. Photographers may spend several nights during several years in order to get some good photos. We want you to be aware of this before you decide to make a reservation.

Furthermore, in order to be successful you are required to spend about 14 hours in one of our hides, from about 19:30h in the evening to about 10h in the late morning. During that time it is essintial to be as quiet as possible and you cannot leave the hide during that period of time. If you need to use a toilet we provide a small bucket for this purpose.