Find the best places to hunt Grouse in Canada. Discover the Grouse’s Physical Description, Range, Habitat, Food Source, Breeding Habits, and Status. 

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) Dusky grouse, Dendragapus obscurus LC

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Dusky Grouse

 Dusky Sooty Range Map Of Canada 1
 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

Once referred to as a Blue Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus) the Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus) and the Sooty Grouse (Dendragapus fuliginosus) have been reclassified into two distinct families of grouse. In general, the Dusky grouse is found in the eastern half of British Columbia. The Sooty Grouse is found in the western half of the province along the seaboard coast with the Cascade Mountains forming the dividing line between the two species.

This species is a native bird that prefers to live in coniferous forests of pine and fir. You will find it residing at sea level in stands of Aspen that have sagebrush mixed in with it. Then later in the year it will migrate to higher elevations of up to 11,811 ft. (3,600 m) where it will spend its time in forests of Douglas fir, Lodgepole pine, and Spruce.

This migration strategy of wintering at higher elevations and in denser forests that located near the tree line. May well be proving beneficial to the species in that it reduces the risk of predation during the winter. This is because most predators have followed the big game animals that migrated down to lower elevations.

In general, Sooty grouse are found on the west side of BC in moist habitats while the Dusky grouse resides on the east side of BC in the drier habitats. 

Description of Dusky Grouse:

Dusky Grouse

Sooty Grouse

Dusky Grouse 2 Dusky Grouse

Photo by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Photo by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Dusky and Sooty grouse look much the same and differentiating between the two can prove to be daunting. What can be stated is that the Dusky tends to have a lighter and more greyish colouring to its overall appearance. A definitive difference lies in its tail feathers. The Dusky has 20 in comparison to the Sooty’s 18 tail feathers.

Female Dusky Grouse
Dusky Female Grouse

Photo by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Male and female members of this family can also prove to be difficult to differentiate between as the differences are quite subtle. Observing a pair together you may note that the male has a slate grey colour with some white mixed in. Then looking at the female it will appear to be a little browner in colour also with some white mixed in. Both have fan shaped square shaped tails that have a grey band at the tip of their tail. Both have eye combs, but the male’s is more prominent in that it is over its entire eye while the female’s comb is only on the inner top corner of its eye. Colouring of the comb is yellow in both cases but the male’s yellow will be brighter. The male has a purplish cervical air sack at the base of its neck while the female does not. This sack is surrounded by white feathers and is used primarily during the mating season to help call and attract females. It can puff up this sack and call with a very loud low pitched “Booming” voice. That call is also referred to as a hoot and can be heard 0.62 miles (1 km.) away.

Male members of this species are typically larger than female members. Physically the Dusky can range from 12 to 15 inches (38 to 61 cm.) in length and a body mass of 2.62 lbs. (1.188 kg.).

Finally, this is the second largest member of the grouse family and in the wild it has a life expectancy of about 14 years.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Dusky Grouse:

This species is considered to be an herbivore and it has a foraging strategy that varies according to the time of year. In the summer, it forages mostly on the ground where it will consume for berries flowers, leaves, and insects. Apparently, insects form an important part of their summer time diet where they seek out species like ants, beetles, and their favourite is grasshoppers.

In the winter it will feed in the trees on buds, cones, and needles of the fir, pine, and hemlock tree.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Dusky Grouse:

Breeding for Canadian members of the Dusky Grouse starts in late May and you know that it is underway by the number of male birds hooting and flapping their wings. The male may go out alone in search of a receptive female or may gather in a group where they challenge each other for the right to breed. The latter being referred to as a Lek.

Once a female has mated she will seek out a protective nest site that is usually under a blow down or within thick brush. Here she will build a nest out of small twigs and grass. There she lays 7 to 10 eggs and it takes somewhere from 18 to 21 days to incubate and hatch them. The female will likely re-nest if the nest is destroyed.

Chicks come into this world precocial in that they are born in an advanced state of development and in this case it only takes them 12 to 24 hours to fledge. These new grouse will form a family unit with the mother in charge because their time to full independence is still 2 to 3 months away.

These new grouse will feed almost exclusively on insects the first ten days out of the nest and then gradually work towards a diet that is similar to their parents.

Both male and female Dusky Grouse are fully sexually mature with 1 year.

Status of Dusky Grouse:

The status of the Dusky Grouse was assessed by BirdLife International in 2012 and was placed on the Red List as a species of Least Concern. Justification for this assessment comes from the facts that it has a large range and the decline in its population is not great enough to deem it threatened.

Predation of adult’s can occur from predominately predatory birds because they are not very good fliers. While nesting on the ground predation of the eggs is also a concern and leads to high mortality rates of the young. Predation can come from badgers, bobcats, coyotes, hawks, eagles, lynx, mink, martens, mountain lions, and bears.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) Greater sage-grouse, Centrocercus urophasianus NT

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Greater Sage Grouse:

 Sage Grouse Range Map of Canada
Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

Centrocercus urophasianus or the Greater Sage Grouse is a native bird that can be found in south eastern Alberta and south-western Saskatchewan. British Columbia tried to introduce the species in 1958 but it considered extirpated as no birds have been sited in the province since 1966.

Within the range of the Greater Sage Grouse there are non-migrating and locally migrating populations. As it implies non-migrating populations do not migrate seasonally. However, the locally migrant population exhibits what is referred to a single and a two-stage migration. Single stage populations move 9.3 to 29.8 miles (15 to 48 km) whereas two stage populations may move 49.7 to 62.1 miles (80 to 100 km.) from their summer range to their winter range. These migrating birds will form separate flocks consisting entirely of either males or females.

The Greater Sage Grouse inhabits the ecosystems of shrublands from mountain slopes, foothills, and down onto the prairie plains. It closely associates itself to the sagebrush Artemesia and on Wikipedia I counted 33 variations of this sagebrush. These areas of sagebrush are used for nesting sites, feeding, leks. In general, this bird’s entire life is centred around this plant year-round. The only missing component is their need for water. Mesic sites that act like a sponge holding water are key factors that help the Greater Sage Grouse survive especially during the breeding season.

Description of Greater Sage Grouse:

Male and female Greater Sage Grouse

greater sage grouse
 Photo by - USFWS

The Greater Sage Grouse is the largest member of the North American Grouse family and the sexes are quite distinct in appearance.

Male members of the species are quite a bit larger than females. Their overall colour starts with a gray-brown, then their belly, throat and head are coloured black. The top of their head is grey and there is a yellow patch between the bird’s eyes and its beak. It’s tail feathers are much the same colour as its body and they are long and tapered. When its tail may be as large as a turkey’s when fanned but rather than being uniform in formation it looks like a bunch of spikes sticking out.

Finally the most distinguishing feature is its white plumage that at the back of its neck and runs to the front of its chest and down past the esophageal sac. The esophageal sac is inflatable and is used in courtship displays to attract a female. When fully inflated you can visually see these yellow coloured sacs.

In comparison there is not much to say about the female. She is smaller, has a lighter mottled grey and brown colour. She has a shorter tail and does not exhibit the white collar nor the esophageal sacs that the male has.

Adult male greater sage-grouse range in length from 26 to 30 inches (66 to 76.2 cm.) and weigh between 4 and 7 pounds (1.8 to 3.17 kg.). Adult females are smaller, ranging in length from 19 to 23 inches (48.26 to 58.42 cm) and weighing between 2 and 4 pounds (9 to 1.8 kg.).

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Greater Sage Grouse:

The gizzard (muscular pouch in the lower stomach that is used to break down food) of the Greater Sage Grouse is not very strong and because of that it consumes soft foods.

This bird’s dietary requirements change according to the stage of life that it is in.

Studies have shown that newly-hatched chicks it must live on a diet of high protein (Insects). Chicks less than 10 days old that don’t feed on insects will perish chicks that are greater than 3 weeks of age may survive but their rate of development is slowed down. It is estimated that in its first week 60% of the chick’s diet will consist of insects (ants, beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers), at 3 weeks it will be 25%, but by 12 weeks it will have dropped to only 5%.

As the chick develops it slowly progresses to the same diet of a mature adult. The adult is predominantly herbivorous and chooses to feed on soft plants like Sagebrush leaves (Artemisia spp.). These leaves will make up 60-80% of their diet in the summer and almost 100% of their winter needs.

The remaining 40-20 % of their summer diet will consist of Dandelion, Goatsbeard, yarrow, prickly lettuce, June Grass, Blue Gramma Grass and Western Wheatgrass. Of particular note is that Dandelion will account for most of that intake. Insects for the adult do not play a big role as it is estimated that 9% of their summer diet and only 2% of their fall diet is made up of insects.

Of the plants eaten, the Greater Sage Grouse will eat only the leaves of the sagebrush but it will consume the reproductive parts of the other plants mentioned. Here it targets the leaves, buds, flowers, and capsules but leaves the stems behind.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Greater Sage Grouse:

This species utilizes a system of leking (strutting grounds) on which males perform their elaborate display. The early morning and evening are the best times to witness this display. Here you will find groups of males together with generally the most dominate male in the centre of the group. You will see all the males pulling their wings forward towards their chest, fanning out their tails, inflating theiresophageal sac, and calling in an effort to attract a female.

The area of the lek needs to be flat and open in order to provide greater visibility to the females. It is estimated that the dominate male will breed with 80% of the females that come to the lek and timing for this event is in the spring as soon as the snow melts from the ground.

Once a hen has mated, she will seek out her own nesting ground. The nest is usually located under sagebrush or some other type of shrub. Here she will make her nest in a shallow depression and over the course of 9 days lay a clutch of 6 to 8 eggs. Incubation of the eggs will take 25 to 27 days to occur. But the risk is high for this bird, as success rates range from 23.7 to 60.3% and predation of nest sites are in the range of 26 to 76%.

Chicks come into this world precocial in that they are born in an advanced state of development and it is 7 to 14 days before these chicks are able to fly. Their mother will stay with the brood and tend for them. Once they are fledged she will move the brood to a mesic (wet) area where food is readily available. They can maintain flight at 5 to 6 weeks of age and are fully independent at 10 to 12 weeks of age.

The brood will remain with their mother until the falls arrives and at that time. They will separate and form small winter flocks according to their sex.

The Greater Sage Grouse reaches sexual maturity in 1 year and in the wild has a life expectancy of 3 to 6 years. This is not a good thing for this bird as it does have a high mortality rate.

Status of Greater Sage Grouse:

THIS BIRD IS NOT HUNTABLE.

greater sage grouse declineThe status of the Greater Sage Grouse was assessed by BirdLife International in 2012 and was placed on the Red List as a species that is near threatened. Justification for this assessment comes from the facts that its populations have suffered severe declines in recent years.

Measures have been put in place by both US and Canadian government agencies in order to protect this bird.

Nesting cover seems to be a key factor here and some measures include freezing of activities on land use where the Sage Grouse resides. For example you cannot plow fields, erect fence lines, sell land, move or destroy plants in the area. The efforts here are to preserve the habitat and nesting cover in order to decrease the mortality rates on nesting sites.

Predators of adult and juvenile grouse include species like Badger, Bobcat, Coyote, Falcons, Hawks, Kites, and Eagles.

While predators of nests include the Crow, Raven, Magpies, Badger, Coyote, and Ground Squirrels.

 

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) Ruffed grouse, Bonasa umbellus LC

 Range Distribution and Habitat of Ruffed Grouse

 Ruffed Grouse Range Map of Canada
 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

The Ruffed Grouse is a native year-round resident that is widespread throughout Canada and has some representation in every province and territory. The only exception to that is where it is found in Newfoundland. Here it is present but the species was successfully introduced to the western part of the province.

The Ruffed grouse requires both a mature forest and ahabitat that includes weedy areas, grasslands, old fields, pastures, shrub thickets (e.g. dogwood or alder), and young forest. A dense forest with a minimum area of 40 to 250 acres (16-100 ha) with some deciduous trees (trees that shed their leaves) can provide these requirements. This species does not like open fields and is not often found there.

The broad requirements are in order to accommodate the various stages of its life, activities, and the years seasons but generally speaking they use young stands of forest in the summer and in the winter they choose mature stands.

Drumming

The male will seek out a resonant log on which it can beat its wings and call for a mate. Preferred areas have higher densities of shrubs along with some canopy cover. An important factor is that its log has good visibility around it and the canopy gives it an escape route from predators.

Although a nice big log can provide a good drumming platform. They are not always available and other land features like large rocks, large roots, dirt mounds, and stumps as well as man made structures like as culverts and rock walls may be utilized.

Nesting

Nesting habitat can really vary as it is the most variable of all of the ruffed grouse’s habitats. It can range from open 10 to 80 year-old forests to mature stands that consist of trees that are pole-sized. There are only a couple of factors that seem to be apparent. The first is that they don’t like to nest in dense cover and secondly, they prefer to build their nests in a place where they can fly directly to their feeding sites.

Brooding

Broods need cover to hide from predators but at the same time they need relatively open area on which they can forage for plants, insects, and small invertebrates. A relatively open area of herbaceous (no woody stems) cover provides that requirement so it is not surprising to see that forest stand that are about 10 years old are favoured.

Foraging 

Foraging habitat depends on the stage of life that it is in. I have already covered brooding and nesting cover but let’s look at the cover and habitat that an adult requires. Here you find the adult foraging in more mature forests. Catkins, buds, and the twigs of trees are sought after from fall to spring. Stands of 25 to 36 year old aspen provide an excellent source of food and cover for the adult.

Winter

The Ruffed grouse roosts predominately at night on the ground in the winter. It will rest under an evergreen tree or borrow in light snow. Studies showed that preference was given to stands of trees that were greater than 56 ft. (17 m.) in height. Stands that were only 5 to 13 ft. (1.5 to 4 m.) tall were avoided.

Description of Ruffed Grouse:

 Ruffed Grouse

 Roughed Grouse Courting
 

Male Roughed Grouse in Courting Display - USFWS - Flickr

The Ruffed Grouse is a non-migrating medium sized bird that can have either a greyish or brownish colour. Both grey and brown morphs have a crest on their head and ruffs on the side of their neck. Grey coloured specimens have a grey-brown coloured head, neck and back along with a barred light coloured chest. Its belly and sides are mostly white and its tail is a barred brown-grey colour with a black band at the tip. Brown coloured birds can be described in much the same manner as the grey coloured morph except that their overall plumage is more brown in colour and the tail is grey. Both morphs have 18 tail feathers.

This species will have a body mass of .99 to 1.65 lbs. (0.45 to 0.75 Kg.). Its will have an overall length of 16 to 20 ins. (40 to 50 cm.) and a wingspan of 20 to 25 inches (50 to 64 cm.).

This bird has a survival rate that may range 30 to 60% depending a lot on the habitat in which it resides. Lifespan of a wild Ruffed grouse is estimated to be 8.5 years.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Ruffed Grouse:

Like other members of the Grouse family this specimen’s diet changes as it ages. As a young chick it will eat mainly insects and gradually progress to plant material.

Young grouse are considered to be insectivorous as they eat insects and spiders until they are old enough to care for themselves.

As an adult, 25% of its diet is made up of fruit like thorn apples, blueberries and strawberries and in the summer months 30% is comprised of insects. The balance is made up of leaves, nuts, wild seeds and the buds and catkins of the birch, poplar, and willow. Some other plants that it targets are the Hazel, Poplar, Pyrola, Dogwood, Spikenard, Prunus, Shadbush and Snowberry.

Food resources can be split into three categories.

Metabolizable energy - This is the energy that is available to the species by digestion. High levels of Metabolizable energy are good. Foods like Herbaceous leaves, acorns and soft fruit are high while Buds and catkins along with evergreen leaves are low.

Protein - The biomolecules or macromolecules that contain one or more chains of amino acids. High levels of protein are good. Foods like Herbaceous leaves and acorns are high in protein, buds and catkins are considered to be intermediate in value. Soft fruits and evergreen leaves are low in protein.

Protective covering – The covering that is on the plant material and resists it breakdown into food. High levels of protective covering are bad. Herbaceous leaves along with soft fruits are low. Acorns can vary while buds and catkins are considered to be intermediate in this category. Finally, Evergreen leaves are high in protective covering.

Conclusion is that herbaceous leaves are the best while evergreen leaves (which I have seen gizzards stuffed with) are the worst scenario for this bird.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Ruffed Grouse:

The courtship call of the Ruffed grouse is one that is made by its wings. Often referred to as drumming it is a call that puts a smile on any hunter and really gets the interest of my hunting dog. Here the male (sometime females do this too) starts slowly with a flap then it quickens it pace as it flaps. This drumming is not limited to the spring time mating season as it is also used by males as early as 6 months of age to announce their territory. Studies show that males that are greater than 1 year of age are highly territorial and will both defend and drum their territory. Which they tend to establish in the winter or spring.

The peak times of the day for drumming seem to be ½ hour to about 3 hours after sunrise and then again just before sunset.

There is only one breeding season for the Ruffed Grouse and here in Canada it typically occurs in late April to May.

It takes the female 3 to 7 days to build her ground nest that is scratched into a bowl-like depression. She will build it at the base of a bush, tree, or stump and line it with vegetation. If the first nest is destroyed, she will re-nest. She will lay a clutch of about 11 eggs at a rate of 1 per day. Once all the eggs are laid the female will incubate her clutch and that takes 23 to 26 days to occur. The brood is born precocial and to me they look like tan coloured dandelion heads running around on spindly legs. These youngsters are able to walk and feed themselves after only 2 to 3 hours after hatching. They are able to fly in 10 to 12 days.

The female will brood the chicks at night for their first 3 weeks in an effort to keep them dry and warm. The diet of these young hatchlings will for the first 3 to 6 weeks be comprised of mostly insects like ants, flies, aphids, leafhopper, spittlebugs, sowbugs, butterflies and moths. After that they will gradually progress to a diet of plant material.

The brood will disperse in the fall when they are 12 to 15 weeks old. Females generally travel further (about 3 miles [4.9 km.]) than males (about 1.5 miles [2.4 km.]) from their place of birth. The odds of survival from this point to the spring is about 50% for the juveniles as mortality rates soar in the upcoming months of May and June when the cold wet weather arrives. This weather condition also has a big factor that bears on the success of a breeding hen hatching her clutch.

Both members of this species reach sexual maturity at 120 days.

Status of Ruffed Grouse:

The Ruffed grouse was assessed in 2012 by BirdLife International and was assessed to be a species of Least Concern on the Red List. Justification for this assessment was due to its extremely large range and the fact that there is no apparent decline in its population.

Location, food and weather play an important role in population levels and it is normal for this bird’s population to go through cycles of decline and increase every 10 years.

Predation of this species is not only through hunting pressure but also from predation of nests by species like the bear, fisher, fox, mink, raccoon, skunk, weasel, crow, raven, and snake. Bird species like the great horned owl and goshawk may well be the greatest contributors to chick, juvenile and adult Ruffed grouse mortality. But species like bobcats, coyotes, lynx, barred owls, and northern harriers must be added to that list.

Unmistakably predation is the greatest obstacle that the Ruffed grouse has to face. Even though this species is susceptible to diseases and parasites they do not contribute greatly to the mortality rate.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)Sharp-tailed grouse, Tympanuchus phasianellus LC

 Range Distribution and Habitat of Sharp-tailed Grouse

 Sharp tailed Range Map of Canada
 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

There are six native subspecies of Sharp-tailed grouse that reside year-round in Canada from the western side of Quebec to British Columbia and the Yukon. All subspecies are non-migratory.

Northern Sharp-tailed grouse – Resides in northern Manitoba, northern Ontario, and west-central Quebec.

Northwestern Sharp-tailed grouse – Resides in the Northwest Territories from the Mackenzie River to Great Slave Lake.

Alaskan Sharp-tailed grouse – Resides in the southern Yukon, northern area of British Columbia and Alberta.

Columbian Sharp-tailed grouse – Resides in British Columbia from the limit of the Alaskan Sharp-tailed grouse southward into the U.S.

Praire Sharp-tailed grouse – Resides from southeastern Manitoba eastward into southwestern Ontario.

Plains Sharp-tailed grouse – Resides in north-central Alberta and central Saskatchewan.

Habitat requirement fall into the following categories.

Lekking – Areas used for Leks may be a meadow, low ridge, knoll, area of a recent burn or clear cut, shoreline, or any other opening the provides good visibility. A bonus to this equation would for it to have some dense herbaceous vegetation nearby. However, too many trees will negatively impact a site for use as a Lek.

Nesting – Nesting sites usually are located within 1 mile (1.6 Km.) from Lekking sites. This is where dense herbaceous vegetation, tall grass 5.9-11.8 inches (15-30 cm.), or shrubbery comes into play. This species will avoid areas inhabited by livestock.

Brooding - This bird needs a mixture of dense grass and shrub habitat full of herbaceous flowering plants and insects during its nesting and brooding season. In this case, lands used by livestock may be used.

Winter - In the winter its uses plant communities that are located along waterways and deciduous uplands for foraging, roosting, and predation cover. It will also use a snow bank in which it can burrow into.

The range of this bird from the spring to the fall will likely be within a 1.25 mi. ( 2 km.) radius of the Lek and the key to this species survival lies in good quality of scattered bunches of grass and brushy cover.  

Description of Sharp-Tailed Grouse:

Sharp-tailed Grouse

Sharp Tailed Grouse
 

Sharp Tailed Grouse - USFWS - Flickr

This species has a short tail. Unique to the tails feathers are two feathers that are longer and square tipped. The feathers on each side of these two are lighter in colour. Their plumage is a varied dark and light brown on a white background. Their underside is light and their belly is white in colour. Males have a yellow comb over their eye and a purple patch on their neck.

Typically, males are larger than females but this is a medium sized bird that has an overall length of 16.9 inches (43 cm) and a body mass of 2.1 lbs. (0.953 kg.).

This species has a life expectancy of 7.5 years.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Sharp-Tailed Grouse:

During daylight hours, this grouse will forage both on the ground or in a shrub or tree. Its targeted food will consist of buds, forbs, fruits, insects, grasses, and seeds with about 90% of its diet being plant material and 10% being insects. The exception being that of newborn chicks who like other members of the grouse family require a higher percentage of insects in their first weeks of life if they are to survive but will gradually shift their diet to that of an adults over the course of 12 weeks.

Favoured winter time buds consumed are the serviceberry, chokecherry, aspen, hawthorn, buffaloberry, Russian olive, snowberry, and wild rose.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Sharp-Tailed Grouse:

The Sharp-tailed grouse’s mating season is in early May. At that time groups of up to 20 males will gather in a Lek and perform their courtship display for the females. The male selects a small territory where he defends and dances for the female in an effort to win the affections of the female.

The male’s display is a process where the males stamps it feet at a rate of about 20 times per second and rattles its tails. It does this the whole time while turning in a circle and inflating and deflating a purple neck sac at the back of its neck. It is the female that selects the male with whom it will mate with.

It is not known if the female builds her nest before or after visiting the Lek. What is known is that after mating the female will go to her a nest in which she will lay a clutch of 11-12 eggs at a rate of one a day. Once all the eggs are laid she will incubate her eggs and that takes her 21-23 days. She will re-nest if the first nest is destroyed.

Chicks are born at the same time and they born in an advanced state of development. The hen takes them away from the nesting site right after they are born and development is quick as it is only 10 days before they are able to fly and at 6 to 8 weeks of age they are fully independent.

Males show signs of establishing territories the first fall of existence and females will breed the following spring.

Status of Sharp-Tailed Grouse:

The Sharp-tailed grouse was assessed in 2012 by BirdLife International and was assessed to be a species of Least Concern on the Red List. Justification for this assessment was due to its extremely large range and despite its declining population there is no apparent need for action.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) Sooty grouse, Dendragapus fuliginosus LC

Range, Distribrution and Habitat of the Sooty Grouse

Dusky Sooty Range Map Of Canada 1
 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

Once referred to as a Blue Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus) the Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus) and the Sooty Grouse (Dendragapus fuliginosus) have been reclassified into two distinct families of grouse. In general, the Dusky grouse is found in the eastern half of British Columbia. The Sooty Grouse is found in the western half of the province along the seaboard coast with the Cascade Mountains forming the dividing line between the two species.

This species is a native bird that prefers to live in coniferous forests of pine and fir. You will find it residing at sea level in stands of Aspen that have sagebrush mixed in with it. Then later in the year it will migrate to higher elevations of up to 11,811 ft. (3,600 m) where it will spend its time in forests of Douglas fir, Lodgepole pine, and Spruce.

This migration strategy of wintering at higher elevations and in denser forests that located near the tree line. May well be proving beneficial to the species in that it reduces the risk of predation during the winter. This is because most predators have followed the big game animals that migrated down to lower elevations.

In general, Sooty grouse are found on the west side of BC in moist habitats while the Dusky grouse resides on the east side of BC in the drier habitats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description of Sooty Grouse:

Dusky Grouse

Sooty Grouse

Dusky Grouse 2 Dusky Grouse

Photo by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Photo by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

 Female Sooty Grouse

 Sooty grouse Female
 By Walter Siegmund (talk) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4626689

The Dusky and Sooty grouse look much the same and differentiating between the two can prove to be daunting. What can be stated is that the Dusky tends to have a lighter and more greyish colouring to its overall appearance. A definitive difference lies in its tail feathers. The Dusky has 20 in comparison to the Sooty’s 18 tail feathers.

The tail of an adult Sooty grouse is long and square with a light grey colouring at the end of it. Males are a lighter colour in comparison to the females mottled brown colouring with white markings on its underbelly. Females are also 2/3 the size of a male. The male also has a yellow wattle over its entire eye and a yellow cervical air sack at the base of its neck while the female does not. This sack is surrounded by white feathers and is used primarily during the mating season to help call and attract females. It can puff up this sack and call with a very loud low pitched “Booming” voice. That call is also referred to as a hoot and can be heard 0.62 miles (1 km.) away.

 

This species has an overall length of 18 to 22 inches (45.7 to 55.9 cm.) long, a wingspan of 9 to 9.5 inches (22.9 to 24.1 cm.), and a body mass of 2.5 to 4 lbs. (1.1 to 1.8 kg.).

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Sooty Grouse:

The diet of an Sooty Grouse consists mostly of berries, buds, conifer needles, flowers, fruits, leaves, and seeds. When winter rolls around they will consume mostly fir and douglas-fir needles. While insects are ingested by adults it is thought that adults don’t seek out this source of protein but are taken in accidently as they feed on their primary dietary source.

However, like other grouse chicks live mainly on insects (mostly ants) for the first 3 weeks of their lives and will from that point on gradually move onto plant material like their parents. This diet of insects yields a lot of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium but it is lower in carbohydrates, fat, and calcium when compared to an adults diet.

A Study (King and Bendell) showed that in May and June females ate twice as much broad-leafed plant than males did. By late July and into September adults and chicks alike were on a diet where flowers and fruit made up 80% of their diet. In March and April both sexes consumed mostly Doulas-fir needles and willow leaves. With females consuming 2X the amount of willow in comparison to the male. In May and June, male Sooty grouse still ate the same amount of Douglas-fir needles but added eight other plant types to their diet. But the hens besides the same eight other plant types ate less of the Douglas-fir and added flowers of the hairy cat’s ear to their diet.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Sooty Grouse:

Male dusky and sooty grouse perform a hooting display when they are on breeding territories during the spring. Each hooting display consists of a sequence of 5-7 low frequency ‘hoots’ that are detectable from 100 meters (dusky grouse) to more than 2 kilometers (sooty grouse). The males of both species also utter a single ‘hoot’ note when they are displaying to a female that is detectable from about 2 kilometers. Male dusky grouse perform a ‘flutter jump’ which is a loud flight that is detectable from about 1 kilometer. Male sooty grouse exhibit a similar behavior called ‘landing on loud wing’ display where they create an unusually loud noise at the end of a short flight, often while landing in a tree.

The Sooty Grouse likes to breed at the edge of evergreen and mixed forests. The female will generally leave the breeding site to nest and males do not assist in the parenting role at all.

The female will select a nesting site under a log or shrub in a depression that she has scraped out. Most times making sure that there is type of overhead cover like a conifer, shrub, rock overhang or log over the nest. After constructing a nest that is lined with dried leaves or grass, she will lay a clutch of 5 to 9 brown spotted cream coloured eggs on the ground.

For the first ten days of the chick’s life the consumption of insect matter (ants, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, millipedes, sowbugs, and spiders) is crucial to its survival.  

Status of Sooty Grouse:

The status of the Dusky Grouse was assessed by BirdLife International in 2012 and was placed on the Red List as a species of Least Concern. Justification for this assessment comes from the facts that it has a large range and the decline in its population is not great enough to deem it threatened.

Predation of adult’s can occur from predominately predatory birds because they are not very good fliers. While nesting on the ground predation of the eggs is also a concern and leads to high mortality rates of the young. Predation can come from badgers, bobcats, coyotes, hawks, eagles, lynx, mink, martens, mountain lions, and bears. 

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) Spruce grouse, Falcipennis canadensis LC

 

Range Distribution and Habitat of the Spruce Grouse

 Spruce Grouse Range Map of Canada
 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

The Spruce grouse may be a non-migrating or a locally migrating year-round native resident of Canada. These locally migrating birds by definition travel less than 124.3 miles (200 Km.). The reality is that the migration may be as short as .3 mi. (.5 km.) or be as high as 15.5 mi. (25 km.) in order change to a different winter habitat. An interesting fact here is that  females that are more likely to migrate than males.

Of all the grouse in Canada, the Spruce grouse has the greatest range of all the species. From a perspective of east and west as well as north and south it is present in every province and territory in Canada. The only exclusions to its territory exist in the extreme far north as well as sections of the parries.

The habitat of this specimen seems to vary according to its location. Spruce grouse in the east tend to reside in dense swamps of coniferous trees like spruce, fir, cedar, tamarack and possibly hemlock. They are not out in the open very often. In the west they seem to be not as dependent on the swamps but rather rely on the forest of black spruce and jack pine that are at higher elevations. Regardless of its local, the common factor seems to be that for foraging, anti-predation and nesting cover it likes younger dense stands of short needled evergreen trees.

Description of Spruce Grouse:

 Spruce Grouse

 Male Spruce Grouse
 

Male Spruce Grouse - US Fish and Wildlife Service - Flickr

This species is a medium sized bird that has a short neck, short tail and its body is broad and sturdy. Both sexes have uniform coloured brown or black tail feathers. Although some variants of the male may have a very prominent light brown strip that runs all the way across the tail at the tip but most members have some white at the tips.. Males have a distinctive black neck and breast patch that is outlined with white feathers that run in a “V” shape down its belly. Over each eye is a section of red coloured bare skin. Overall it has a fairly uniform dark brown back along with white and dark brown underbelly.  Females on the other are more or less a mixture of a mostly lighter coloured brown with shades of white and lighter brown mixed into its colouring more or less in stripes. Despite the females bland colouring it does however appear to have a more uniform and darker brown on top than on its underside.

Males are generally larger than females. Tis bird has an overall length that is about 15 to 17 inches (38.1 to 43.2 cm.) long. Males will have a body mass of 1.19 to 1.44 lb. (0.55 to 0.65 Kg.) while females will weigh 1.0 to 1.19 lb. (0.45 to 0.55 kg.).

The life expectancy of a wild Spruce grouse is estimated (this is not a good estimate) to be 5.25 years of age.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Spruce Grouse:

The Spruce grouse’s diet consists mainly of short needles of the evergreen tree especially during the winter. Species targeted would include balsam fir, jack pine, lodge-pole pine, juniper, larch, black spruce and white spruce. It will also, depending on the season and availability, consume berries, flowers, fruits, and leaves of the blueberry, cranberry, crowberry, huckleberry, snowberry, and white mandarin. An interesting food source lies in the fact that hens like spore capsules of the haircap or hair moss. Insects will be consumed by adults, but this source of nutrition is only a minor portion of their diet.

Like other members of grouse family insects are the key requirement of chicks in order for them to survive. Chick start on a diet of insects and progress to a diet like that of their parents.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Spruce Grouse:

The breeding season for this bird is in the month of May. Some studies show that it occurs when the first flowers of the blueberry plant show themselves. At this time, the polygynous male will utilize aerial displays where he flies between a tree and the ground. He will also produce a thump with 1 to 3 flaps of his wings while on the ground. These ground displays are in order to attract a female but are not as pronounced as the drumming of the Ruff grouse.. He will face the female, puff himself up, and fan his tail in order to show off his physical attributes of possibly nice eye combs and good breast colour. Once he mates with the female he has nothing to do with the rearing process.

The female Spruce grouse during the breeding and nesting season is very territorial. Females tend to avoid each other during this time period and it is during this time that females make aggressive calls in order to announce their territory. This strategy has a tendency to the population to be evenly distributed.

The female Spruce grouse is very good at using her camouflage colouring in choosing a nesting site and the success rate of the species is dependent on this. The hen will build its nest on the ground under an evergreen, pile of brush, or against the trunk of a tree. She makes it in a depression that she has scraped out and lines it will twigs, leaves and grass. Clutch size depends on the health of the female and it takes her 10 to 12 days to lay her clutch of 4 to 8 buff coloured eggs with brown spots. Once laid, it will take her 21 to 25 days to incubate them. Hens that lose their first nest will often re-nest.

Chicks are born in an advanced state of development and will begin to feed themselves as soon as they dry off. By the time they are 6 days old they are able to fly short distances. The hen keeps the brood warm and dry till they are about 3 to 5 weeks of age. It is 2.5 to 4 months before they can sustain flight..

The young will disperse when they are 70 to 100 days old. Males tend to have a slightly higher survival rate than females do thus you are more likely to come across a male than a female when hunting this species.

These chicks will be sexually mature enough to participate in the next years breeding season but males are generally tow years old before they breed.

Status of Spruce Grouse:

The status of the Spruce Grouse was assessed by BirdLife International in 2014 and was placed on the Red List as a species of Least Concern. Justification for this assessment comes from the facts that it has a large range and the population is stable.

Predators of adult Spruce grouse are the bobcat, coyote, fox, lynx, martin, wolf, Goshawk, Owl, and Red-tailed hawk. Nest raiders would include the fore mentioned predators but small species like squirrels, weasels, crows, and ravens would also be added to the list.

References

Dusky Grouse

© Encyclopedia of Life – Source: http://eol.org/pages/ 1049186/details

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources - Source: IUCN  © Smithsonian Institution - Supplier: Robert Costello

© NatureServe - Source: NatureServe 

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes - Source: AnAge

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors - Source: Animal Diversity Web

Source: US Forest Service Fire Effects Information Service

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dusky_grouse

https://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01273/wdfw01273.pdf

Starzomski, B. 2015. Dusky Grouse in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.).The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. http://www.birdatlas.bc.ca/accounts/speciesaccount.jsp?sp=DUGR&lang=en [24 Jan 2018]

Greater Sage Grouse

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources - Source: IUCN

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors - Source: Animal Diversity Web

© NatureServe - Source: NatureServe 

Source: US Forest Service Fire Effects Information Service

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_sage-grouse

https://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=07F85532-1

https://www.fws.gov/greatersagegrouse/factsheets/Primer1-SGBeginnersGuide.pdf

Ruffed Grouse

© Encyclopedia of Life – Source: http://eol.org/pages/ 1049175/details

© Smithsonian Institution - Supplier: Robert Costello

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors - Source: Animal Diversity Web

© NatureServe - Source: NatureServe 

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors - Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog 

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources - Source: IUCN 

Source: US Forest Service Fire Effects Information Service

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruffed_grouse

https://wildlife-species.canada.ca

Sharp-tailed Grouse

© Encyclopedia of Life – Source: http://eol.org/pages/ 1049184/details

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources - Source: IUCN 

© NatureServe - Source: NatureServe 

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes - Source: AnAge

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharp-tailed_grouse

Source: US Forest Service Fire Effects Information Service

Sooty Grouse

© Encyclopedia of Life – Source: http://eol.org/pages/ 1283247/details

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources - Source: IUCN 

© NatureServe - Source: NatureServe  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sooty_grouse

Starzomski, B. 2015. Sooty Grouse in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.).The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. http://www.birdatlas.bc.ca/accounts/speciesaccount.jsp?sp=SOGR&lang=en [24 Jan 2018]

Canadian Journal of Zoology, 1982, 60(12): 3268-3281, https://doi.org/10.1139/z82-414

Alaska Department of Fish and Game - http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=sootygrouse.main

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/38032/38032.txt

Spruce Grouse

http://www.eol.org/pages/1178423/details

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors - Source: Animal Diversity Web

© NatureServe - Source: NatureServe

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors - Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog 

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources - Source: IUCN

© SPIRE project - Source: SPIRE

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes - Source: AnAge

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spruce_grouse

 

Background Images

Dusky Grouse - https://www.goodfreephotos.com/albums/animals/birds/male-dusky-grouse-in-display.jpg

Greater Sage Grouse - By Bureau of Land Management (Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ruffed Grouse _ By Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (1553_ruffed_grouse_matthews_odfw) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sharped-Tailed Grouse _By ALAN SCHMIERER from near Patagonia, AZ, USA [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sooty Grouse - Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Spruce Grouse - US Fish and Wildlife Service

 

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