At a Glance

A large, dark grouse of western coastal forests, also living in mountain forest in the Sierras of California. Until recently, this and the Dusky Grouse were combined as 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' a series of deep hoots, often from more than 100 feet up in a dense evergreen tree.
Upland Ground Birds
Low Concern
Forests and Woodlands
Alaska and The North, California, Northwest, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Flap/Glide, Flushes, Rapid Wingbeats, Running

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Many birds move in autumn from fairly open breeding areas to dense coniferous forest.


20" (51cm). Male is gray, darker and more uniform than most grouse. White feathers around bare yellow to reddish neck patches are visible only in courtship display. Broad gray tip on dark tail. Female is mottled brown and gray. Dusky Grouse is very similar, separated mainly by range.
About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Black, Brown, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Fingered, Rounded, Short
Tail Shape
Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Displaying male gives a low, owl-like hooting, sounding like air blown across the top of a jug.
Call Pattern
Call Type


Deciduous and mixed forests in mountains in summer; conifer forests in winter. Prime summer habitat for inland birds is where forest meets open country. In winter, these birds favor dense forests of conifers. Coastal birds may be in semi-open coniferous forest (old-growth or recently logged) all year.



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, with more foraging in trees in winter.


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. Typically sings from high in trees. In peak display, male struts 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.