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Bird of the Week: Dusky Grouse

Okanogan Country | 09/23/2019 | Blog, Fishing & Hunting, Methow Valley, The Great Outdoors, Wildlife Viewing

"Grouse hunting season opened Sept 1 in Washington, and while I'm not a hunter I do think about Dusky Grouse a fair bit this time of year as the weather changes and these birds prepare for winter by fattening up on seeds and fruit, and by moving up out of the shrub-steppe and more into the conifer forests where they will sustain themselves through the winter on buds and needles (or burrowed into temporary snow caves when the weather is really rough). You might know this bird as the Blue Grouse so why do we call it the Dusky Grouse? The dusky grouse (Dendragapus obscurus) and the sooty grouse (Dendragapus fuliginosus) are two of seven different grouse species in WA, and they were identified separately way back in 1805 by Lewis and Clark. About a century later they were lumped into one species called the “blue grouse” because the birds are really quite similar and do interbreed to create hybrids. Another century later, in 2006, DNA provided enough variance to once again split the species into two separate species. For our WA purposes, the main difference is not how they look or what they do, it is their habitat range. Sooty takes the western portion of the state and much of the Cascades, including right along the crest such as at Harts Pass. Dusky is the species we see throughout Okanogan County and further east."

Mary Kiesau | Local Naturalist and Photographer


Fun Facts!

Information from the Seattle Audubon Society

  • During late summer and early autumn, Dusky Grouse move from open breeding areas to dense conifer forests at higher elevations
  • Dusky Grouse are usually found singly, not in flocks (except for hens with young) 
  • Nests are a shallow scrape in the ground, sometimes with little or no cover, sparsely lined with dead twigs, needles, leaves, and feathers.
  • Females provide all parental care.
  • To attract females, males also strut with tails raised and fanned, and neck feathers spread, revealing patches of bright skin.
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