Waterfowl

Spruce Grouse

The Spruce Grouse, Falcipennis canadensis, is a medium-sized grouse.

Distribution

Their breeding habitat is the boreal forests or taiga across Alaska and Canada.

It also occurs in the boreal forest that extends into the United States’ northern border states.

They nest on the ground in dense growth.

Distribution of the Spruce Goose

Female Spruce Grouse

Description

Adults have a long square black tail. Adult males are mainly grey with a black breast with white bars, a black throat and a red patch over the eye. Adult females are mottled brown with dark and white bars on the underparts.

While the nominate species has rusty tips to the tail feathers, Franklin’s Grouse (D. c. franklinii) lacks these and instead has white tips to the tail coverts.

Diet / Feeding

These birds forage on the ground or in trees in winter. The caeca, digestive sacs in the intestines, increase in size to support this bird’s winter diet of conifer needles. In summer, they also eat berries, green plants, and some insects.

Spruce Grouse Male

Behavior

The Spruce Grouse has great confidence in its camouflage, and will often stay still even when approached within a few feet (1 m). It is this characteristic that has earned them the nickname “Fool Hens”.

During the winter months, however, the Spruce Grouse will become very skittish due to a lack of camouflage; they take flight when approached within 20-150 feet (6-45 m). A male on territory makes a drumming sound by flapping his wings.

Less vocal than other grouse, it will make some soft calls including hoots and clucks. Males will sometimes flutter tails or wings.

Habitat

Spruce Grouse are permanent residents of coniferous forests, especially among those consisting of black spruce or jack pine. Some may move short distances by foot to a different location for winter.

Females with young may dwell at the edges of clear cuts, but tend to remain close to conifers.

Spruce Grouse

Food

Spruce grouse eat many pine and spruce tree buds, as they are high in energy.

The also tend to eat pebbles, to help their gizzard digest their food.

Spruce Grouse eggs

References

  • BirdLife International (2004). Dendragapus canadensis. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. BirdLife International (2004). Dendragapus canadensis. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  1. Stucker, S. Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, September-October 2009. MN Department of Natural Resources. 73.
  2. Stucker, S. Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, September-October 2009. MN Department of Natural Resources. 73.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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