Scientists will analyse the DNA of more than 1,000 feathers collected from the capercaillie’s last stronghold in Britain in a bid to save the endangered species.
It is believed there are fewer than 1,000 of the famous birds left in the UK.
The Cairngorms National Park Authority has teamed up with the Wildgenes lab at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland to extract DNA from the quills of feathers collected by trained volunteers and land staff.
Carolyn Robertson, Cairngorms capercaillie project leader, said: “Numbers in the UK are now so low, with potentially less than 1,000 birds left, the population could be stuck in a deadly genetic bottleneck.
“This painstaking work has produced enough DNA to shed new light on the genetic health of the UK capercaillie population. The analysis may take up to a year to complete but hopes are high.”
The DNA that is collected will then be placed in a public biobank for use by other scientists and researchers.
Ms Robertson added: “Capercaillie are part of a global population, extending from Russia to Scandinavia and into Europe. Genetic information is already making a difference so this project is helping the UK to catch up.”
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