Sooty Grouse, Dendragapus fuliginosus

The Sooty Grouse (Dendragapus fuliginosus) is a species of grouse native to North America’s Pacific Coast Ranges from southeastern Alaska and Yukon south to California. Its habitat includes edges of conifer and mixed forests in mountainous regions. Its range is closely associated with that of various conifers. They are permanent residents but move short distances to denser forest areas in winter, and oddly sometimes moving to higher altitudes.

It is closely related to the Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus), and until recently there was some debate on whether the two were separate species or not. The Sooty Grouse is experiencing some population decline from habitat loss at the southern end of its range in southern California.

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

The Sooty Grouse forages on the ground, or in trees in winter. In winter, it mainly eats fir and douglas-fir needles. It will also occasionally eat hemlock and pine needles. In summer months, it will take in other green plants, berries, and insects (particularly ants, beetles and grasshoppers). Chicks rely almost entirely on insect food for their first ten days.

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

Image Caption: Female Sooty Grouse. Credit: Walter Siegmund /Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0, 2.5, 2.0, 1.0)