Sooty Grouse

The Sooty Grouse, Dendragapus fuliginosus, is a species of forest-dwelling grouse native to North America’s Pacific Coast Ranges. It is so closely related to the Dusky Grouse, Dendragapus obscurus, that until recently there was some debate whether they were separate species.


Adults have a long square tail, light gray at the end. Adult males are mainly dark with a yellow throat air sac surrounded by white, and a yellow wattle over the eye during display.

Adult females are mottled brown with dark brown and white marks on the underparts.

Distribution / Range

Their breeding habitat is the edges of conifer and mixed forests in mountainous regions of western North America, from southeastern Alaska and Yukon south to California.

Their range is closely associated with that of various conifers.

They are permanent residents but move short distances by foot and short flights to denser forest areas in winter, with the odd habit of moving to higher altitudes in winter.

Breeding / Nesting

Males sing with deep hoots on their territory and make short flapping flights to attract females. Females leave the male’s territory after mating.

The nest is a scrape on the ground concealed under a shrub or log.

Sooty (or Blue) Grouse Mating Ritual

Sooty Grouse

Diet / Feeding

These birds forage on the ground, or in trees in winter. In winter, they mainly eat fir and douglas-fir needles, occasionally also hemlock and pine needles; in summer, other green plants (Pteridium, Salix), berries (Gaultheria, Mahonia, Rubus, Vaccinium), and insects (particularly ants, beetles, grasshoppers) are more important.

Chicks are almost entirely dependent on insect food for their first ten days.


Sooty Grouse are experiencing some population decline from habitat loss at the southern end of its range in southern California.

Photo of author

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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