At a Glance

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.
Pheasants and Grouse, Upland Ground Birds
Low Concern
Forests and Woodlands, High Mountains, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
Alaska and The North, California, Northwest, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Flap/Glide, Flushes, Rapid Wingbeats, Running

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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.


15 1/2 -21" (39-53 cm). Male is gray, darker and more uniform than most grouse. White feathers around bare reddish neck patches are visible only in courtship display. In most of range, has broad gray tip on dark tail. Female is mottled brown and gray.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Black, Brown, Gray, Orange, Red, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Fingered, Rounded, Short
Tail Shape
Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Male gives a series of deep hoots, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, increasing in tempo and volume.
Call Pattern
Call Type


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.



5-10, sometimes 2-12. Pale buff, usually speckled with brown. Incubation is by female only, 25-28 days.


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.

Feeding Behavior

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


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.


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.

Climate Vulnerability

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.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Dusky Grouse. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Dusky Grouse

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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