Spruce Grouse

Falcipennis canadensis

Description 3

Spruce grouse are 38–43 cm (15–17 in) long; males weigh 550–650 g (19–23 oz) and females 450–550 g (16–19 oz). Races vary slightly in plumage, especially in the tail pattern and in the extent of white on the underparts, but in general adult males are mainly grey above and black below, with white spots along the side, and a red patch of bare skin over the eye. Adult females are mottled brown (red morph) or mottled grey (grey morph) with dark and white bars on the underparts. Juveniles resemble females. Females may be confused with ruffed grouse but they have a dark tail with a pale band at the end (while the reverse is true in ruffed grouse) and they do not erect their crown feathers when alarmed the way ruffed grouse do.

Food 3

The staple food is conifer needles, clipped directly from the tree, preferably the midcrown of pines though other conifers are exploited as well. In summer the birds can also forage on the ground, eating berries, green plants, fungi, and some insects. In winter, when only needles are consumed, the caeca (dead-end extensions of the intestines) increase in size to support digestion. The crop is also well developed: up to 45 cc of needles (about 10% of body mass) can be stored in the crop at the end of the day, to be digested over the duration of the night fast. Like other birds, spruce grouse consume grit or small stones to help their gizzard break down food. Chicks under 1-week old feed on insects and other arthropods, then switch to berries and fungi until the fall, when they start feeding on needles.

Locomotion 3

This species prefers to walk on the ground or along tree limbs rather than fly. Like other grouse, in the fall they grow "snow shoes" (short lateral extensions, or pectinations) on their toes. This increases the surface area of the toes and helps support the bird on snow and probably to grip branches as well. The pectinations are shed in the spring. Flights are usually over short distances, most commonly from the ground to a tree nearby, or vice versa. Flight can be rapid but no actual measures of velocity have been made.

Sounds 3

Spruce grouse are among the most silent of all grouse, but they nevertheless have a number of calls used to warn of predators, to repel territorial intruders, to maintain brood cohesion, or to elicit brooding. In the subspecies franklinii, territorial males are notable for their wing-clap display. At the end of a short flight through the trees, the wings are brought together over the back so as to produce two sharp claps, about 0.5 s apart, loud enough to be heard by the human ear 150 m away. These territorial displays can sometimes be elicited by similar hand clapping, and can be used to detect male territories and estimate their density. Other non-vocal sounds include soft drumming by territorial males (a sound produced by the beating wings) and a tail-swish and a whoosh produced by the tail feathers in flight.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Gavan Watson, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), http://www.flickr.com/photos/34259482@N00/1398378861
  2. (c) greglasley, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), uploaded by Greg Lasley, http://www.inaturalist.org/photos/216280
  3. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spruce_grouse

More Info

Range Map

iNatCA Map

Animal Bird
Color brown, red, white
Bird Phasianidae (grouse)