Sooty Grouse Identification

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The Four Keys to ID

  • Size & Shape

    A heavyset, chickenlike bird with a short bill, short, strong legs, and a medium-length tail that can be fanned into a semicircle.

    Relative Size

    Larger than a Spruce Grouse, smaller than a Wild Turkey.

    Relative Sizebetween crow and goosebetween crow and goose
    • Both Sexes
      • Length: 15.8-19.7 in (40-50 cm)
      • Weight: 26.5-45.9 oz (750-1300 g)

Regional Differences

Ornithologists recognize four subspecies, which differ mostly in the shape of their tail feathers and the pattern on those feathers. In the northernmost, sitkensis, of Alaska and British Columbia, males have a narrow gray tail band and females are rather rusty above. In fuliginosus, found on coastal slopes of British Colombia to California, females are much grayer above. On the eastern slopes of the coastal mountain ranges, from Washington to Nevada, subspecies sierrae has a broad gray tail band. And from Fresno County south to Kern County, California, the similar howardi has an even broader tail band and longer tail. The northern subspecies tend to be darker (especially males) than the southern.

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