Dusky Grouse, Dendragapus obscurus

The Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus) is a species of grouse native to the Rocky Mountains in North America. It is a forest-dwelling bird, with a breeding habitat along the edges of conifer and mixed forests in western North America, from southeastern Alaska and Yukon south to New Mexico. Its range is closely associated with that of various conifers.

It is a permanent resident within its range, but will often move short distances by foot or by wing to denser forest habitat in the colder months. Oddly, it will often move higher in altitude in the winter.

The Dusky Grouse is closely related to the Sooty Grouse (Dendragapus fuliginosus). Until recently, both species were considered to be conspecific — of the same species.

The adult has a long square tail, gray at the end. The adult male is mainly dark with a purplish throat air sac surrounded by white, and a yellow to red wattle over the eye during display. The adult female is mottled brown with dark brown and white marks on the underparts.

The Dusky Grouse forages on the ground, or in trees in the winter. It will mainly eat Fir and Douglas-fir needles in the winter as well, occasionally consuming hemlock and pine needles as well. In summer months, it will eat other green plants, berries and insects (mainly ants, beetles and grasshoppers). The young Dusky Grouse is almost entirely dependent on insect food for the first ten days of life.

The nest is a scrape on the ground concealed under a shrub or log. The male sings with deep hoots in its territory and makes short flapping flights to attract females. The female will leave the male’s territory after mating.

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