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Kate and the 'knife-grinding, cork-popping' capercaillie

By: stagedoorscribbler - December 10, 2018

Kate Humble

Lovely to hear BBC Radio 4 re-visiting some of the most interesting examples of birdsong that can be discovered in the British Isles. 

Good too to find popular Clive Conway Productions speaker the wildlife presenter Kate Humble presenting the extraordinary and sadly vanishing sound of the capercaillie.

The BBC’s own preview described it thus: “The bizarre knife-grinding, cork-popping display of the male capercaillie is one of the strangest sounds produced by any bird.

“The name 'Capercaillie' is derived from the Gaelic for 'horse of the woods', owing to the cantering sound, which is the start of their extraordinary mating display.”

But what exactly is a capercaillie? Essentially it is a very large grouse which in the UK you will only find in Scotland inhabiting ancient Caledonian pine forests.

The poor things struggle to survive. They became extinct in this country back in the 18th century but were given a second lease of life when, in 1837,. a stock of birds from Sweden were brought in to reintroduce them to Scotland.

All seemed well for a while and by 1970 there were around 20,000 capercaillie  north of the border. Not so anymore. Massive habitat loss and various predators have led to rapidly diminishing numbers and the poor capercaillie is now facing extinction in Scotland for a second time with on,y around 1,000 birds left.

Meanwhile Kate Humble is gearing up for a  fascinating  series of talks about both her new book, Thinking on my Feet, and her life working around the world.

Her 2019 series of An Audience with Kate Humble kicks off at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre on 24th January. 

Make a note in your diary. It’s a great evening which, apart from focusing on her book also offers the audience a unique chance to go 'behind the camera' as Kate describes how her programmes are made along with some lovely anecdotes about filming.

As well as being a farmer, writer, activist, entrepreneur and leading TV presenter, Kate is an engaging speaker and a thoughtful and talented writer. You can pick up a personal signed copy of Thinking on My Feet at any of her speaking events.

*An Audience with Kate Humble is at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre on 24th January, 2019. More info at and The Playhouse Theatre in Weston Super Mare on1st February More info at More dates to follow. Find details of further shows on this website.