The capercaillie is one of three bird species that is restricted to pinewood habitat in northern Scotland (the other two are the crested tit, Parus cristatus, and the Scottish crossbill, Loxia scotia). It prefers old, open pine forests with lush ericaceous ground cover, though in summer it is occasionally found in mature oakwoods.
Today all the capercaillie in Scotland originate from Swedish stock, as they became extinct in Scotland in 1785. Prior to its extinction, it was once common and widespread, but as the forests were felled it became rare until the last pair were shot, reputedly for a royal wedding banquet at Balmoral. Unsuccessful attempts were made to reintroduce the capercaillie for sport by the Earl of Fife at Mar Lodge early in the nineteenth century. In 1837, however, capercaillie were successfully reintroduced by Lord Breadalbane at Taymouth Castle and they rapidly recolonised the local pinewoods. Soon other reintroductions were made in various pinewood localities in Scotland, using descendants of the original Taymouth introductees, combined with additional capercaillie brought from Scandinavia.