Photo: Dan Dietrich Photography/Audubon Photography Awards

Dusky Grouse

Dendragapus obscurus

A large, dark forest grouse of inland regions of the western U.S. and Canada. Until recently, this and the Sooty Grouse were considered to make up one species under the name Blue Grouse. Slow-moving and inconspicuous, but often surprisingly tame. Most likely to be noticed (at least by sound) in spring, when males "sing" incessantly to attract mates, a series of deep hoots.
Conservation status Still fairly common. Affected by forest management. May increase after clearcuts, but then declines as these grow up; does very poorly in even-aged tree farms as compared to original old-growth forest.
Family Pheasants and Grouse
Habitat Deciduous and mixed forests in mountains in summer; conifer forests at higher elevations in winter. Prime summer habitat is where forest meets open country, such as sagebrush flats. In winter, these birds favor dense forests of conifers.
A large, dark forest grouse of inland regions of the western U.S. and Canada. Until recently, this and the Sooty Grouse were considered to make up one species under the name Blue Grouse. Slow-moving and inconspicuous, but often surprisingly tame. Most likely to be noticed (at least by sound) in spring, when males "sing" incessantly to attract mates, a series of deep hoots.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, displaying
  • adult female
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on ground in summer, mostly in trees in winter, especially in areas with heavy snow cover.


Eggs

5-10, sometimes 2-12. Pale buff, usually speckled with brown. Incubation is by female only, 25-28 days. Young: Usually leave nest within a day after hatching, and follow female; young find all their own food. Female often fearless in defense of eggs or young, standing her ground when approached closely. Young can make short flights at age of 8-9 days, are full-grown at about 13 weeks.


Young

Usually leave nest within a day after hatching, and follow female; young find all their own food. Female often fearless in defense of eggs or young, standing her ground when approached closely. Young can make short flights at age of 8-9 days, are full-grown at about 13 weeks.

Diet

Conifer needles, leaves, insects. Diet in summer is mostly leaves, flowers, buds, berries, and conifer needles; also many insects. Very young birds may eat more insects than adults. In winter feeds mostly on needles of conifers, including pines, hemlocks, firs, douglas-firs.


Nesting

In breeding season, male gives deep song punctuated with short flights, wings fluttering loudly. In peak display, male struts on the ground with tail raised and fanned, neck feathers spread to reveal patches of bright skin. Female mates with male, then departs. Nest site is on ground, under cover such as shrub, log, rock ledge. Nest a shallow scrape, lined with dead twigs, needles, leaves, a few feathers.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Most birds move in autumn from fairly open breeding areas to dense coniferous forest. In most parts of range, this involves moving uphill to spend the winter, an unusual kind of altitudinal migration. Maximum known travel is about 30 miles, but most go shorter distances. Birds may migrate entirely by walking or may intersperse short flights.

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Migration

Most birds move in autumn from fairly open breeding areas to dense coniferous forest. In most parts of range, this involves moving uphill to spend the winter, an unusual kind of altitudinal migration. Maximum known travel is about 30 miles, but most go shorter distances. Birds may migrate entirely by walking or may intersperse short flights.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Male gives a series of deep hoots, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, increasing in tempo and volume.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Pheasants and Grouse Upland Ground Birds

Dusky Grouse

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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