Living Bird Magazine
Dusky GrouseDendragapus obscurus
- ORDER: Galliformes
- FAMILY: Phasianidae
This large grouse lives in mountain forests of ponderosa and lodgepole pine, aspen, and fir. Males are steely gray-blue with purplish air sacs in the neck and red eye combs that they show off for brownish, highly camouflaged females. The species ranges from sun-baked bitterbrush steppe to the twisted “krummholz” trees of frigid mountaintops, somehow managing to thrive on a simple diet of plants and insects. For nearly a century, this species was known as the “Blue Grouse” along with the similar Sooty Grouse of Pacific Coast forests.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Dusky Grouse are numerous but inconspicuous for most of the year. For this reason, your best chance to see them comes in early spring, when displaying males become both conspicuous and quite fearless, often easily approached. To find them, hike through a mountain forest with fairly open understory. Listen for the quiet, low-pitched, but insistent hoots that males make as part of their display. A displaying male struts repeatedly back and forth over a patch of open ground, tail fanned and air sacs and eyebrows exposed, usually allowing great views.
- Gallo Oscuro (Spanish)
- Tétras sombre (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Dusky Grouse is the third largest grouse in North America. The two sage-grouse (Greater and Gunnison) are the only larger American grouse species.
- Dusky Grouse and Sooty Grouse, a species of wet Pacific coastal forests, were long considered the same species (“Blue Grouse”), but their displays, plumages, vocalizations, and genetics differ. The two species do sometimes hybridize in a small zone of contact in interior British Colombia.
- Most bird species have a consistent number of tail feathers (rectrices)—usually around 10 of them. The Dusky Grouse, however, can have from 15 to 22.