Dusky Grouse

The Dusky Grouse is a large chicken-like bird with short legs, a short beak, and a plump body. Both male and female grouse have patterns of brown, gray, and white with a fan-shaped tail. During courtship, males reveal purplish-red air sacs on their neck and their eye combs swell and become a rich yellow or red. They are the third largest grouse on the continent, next to the greater and Gunnison sage grouse.
SCIENTIFIC NAME
Dendragapus obscurus
CLASSIFICATION
Bird
LIFE SPAN
1-14 Years
SIZE
17.3-22.4 ” | 2.56-2.81 lbs
STATE CONSERVATION STATUS
  • Priority Species
  • State Protected
FEDERAL CONSERVATION STATUS
Least Concern
GAME STATUS
Game
GAME TYPE
Upland Game
  1. Washoe
  2. Humboldt
  3. Pershing
  4. Churchill
  5. Mineral
  6. Lyon
  7. Douglas
  8. Carson City
  9. Storey
  1. Elko
  2. Lander
  3. Eureka
  4. White Pine
  1. Esmeralda
  2. Nye
  3. Lincoln
  4. Clark

Habitat & Range

These birds live in high-elevation montane forests and the surrounding sagebrush and shrublands. In Nevada, they are found in small pockets in the central and northeastern parts of the state.

  • Alpine forests of the Sierras
  • Grasslands
  • Upland Forests

Threats

  • Habitat Loss

Natural History

Dusky Grouse occupy the high elevation forests of inland regions in the western U.S. and Canada. They are mainly ground foragers in the summer, feeding on berries, leaves, buds and small insects. In winter, when snow cover dominates the landscape, their diet may consist entirely of conifer needles and buds.
During the breeding season, males will claim and defend a mating territory and advertise to females by fanning out their tail feathers, exposing their neck sac, and giving off low-pitched hoot calls while flapping their wings. Females are highly defensive of their young and will feign injury to distract and lure away potential predators. If unsuccessful, they will aggressively hiss and strike at intruders.

Fun Facts

The Dusky Grouse and the Sooty Grouse were once considered the same species. They were split into two distinct species in 2006 based on DNA evidence and subtle differences in their displays, vocalizations, and plumages.