Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Priority Bird

Spruce Grouse

Falcipennis canadensis

Common in the north woods but very easy to overlook, the Spruce Grouse eludes many birders who seek it. Absurdly tame, it may sit motionless while observers pass by just a few feet away, and it may thus go unnoticed. Spruce Grouse are usually solitary in summer, but in winter they may gather in loose flocks. They readily perch in trees, and do most of their feeding there in winter.
Conservation status Local populations fluctuate in numbers. May have declined in parts of southern edge of range, but still common in far north.
Family Pheasants and Grouse
Habitat Conifer forest, pines, muskeg. Almost always in conifer forest but not necessarily in spruce. Prime habitat includes burned areas grown up to dense stands of jack pine or lodgepole pine, also forests of spruce, subalpine fir, hemlock, with dense undergrowth. Also on blueberry barrens. During dispersal in fall, sometimes found in deciduous woods.
Common in the north woods but very easy to overlook, the Spruce Grouse eludes many birders who seek it. Absurdly tame, it may sit motionless while observers pass by just a few feet away, and it may thus go unnoticed. Spruce Grouse are usually solitary in summer, but in winter they may gather in loose flocks. They readily perch in trees, and do most of their feeding there in winter.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult male, displaying
  • adult female
Feeding Behavior

Does much of its foraging on the ground in summer; forages almost entirely in trees in winter.


Eggs

4-10, usually 5-7. Olive to buff, usually blotched with brown. Females of Franklin's race tend to lay fewer eggs. Incubation is by female only, about 20-24 days. When leaving nest, female may partly cover eggs with dry needles and leaves. Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Female tends young, brooding them at night and in cool weather; young find all their own food. Young can make short flights at 6-8 days old, are full-grown at about 10-11 weeks, become independent at about 10-15 weeks.


Young

Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Female tends young, brooding them at night and in cool weather; young find all their own food. Young can make short flights at 6-8 days old, are full-grown at about 10-11 weeks, become independent at about 10-15 weeks.

Diet

Mostly conifer needles. Adults are mostly vegetarian, feeding heavily on needles of pines, spruce, other conifers. Diet may be almost entirely conifer needles in winter. At other times also eats fresh green shoots and leaves of other plants, berries, flowers, insects, snails, and fungi. Very young birds may eat more insects.


Nesting

Both females and males defend individual territories in breeding season. Male displays by drumming with wings, making deep thumping sound audible only at close range. Males of Franklin's race also make loud wing-clap in flight. In courtship, male raises and spreads tail, fluffs out feathers, postures in front of female. One male may mate with several females. Nest site is on ground under dense cover. Nest (built by female) is shallow depression, lined with a few needles and leaves.

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

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

Migration

Most individuals are permanent residents, but some move short distances (less than ten miles) between summer and winter territories. This "migration" is accomplished on foot. Females more likely to move than males, and tend to go farther.

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Migration

Most individuals are permanent residents, but some move short distances (less than ten miles) between summer and winter territories. This "migration" is accomplished on foot. Females more likely to move than males, and tend to go farther.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Males give a low krrrrk, krrrk, krrk, krrk, krrk, said to be the lowest-pitched vocal sound of any North American bird. Females produce low clucking notes.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.
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