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For more information on species & ecosystem science:

Wildlife Science
360-902-2515
wildthing@dfw.wa.gov

Fish Science
360-902-2700
fishpgm@dfw.wa.gov

Habitat Science
360-902-2534
habitatprogram@dfw.wa.gov

 
 

Lead Scientist: Michael A. Schroeder

Ecoregions: Columbia Plateau, North Cascades, Cascades, Coast Range, Willamette Valley-Puget Trough-Georgia Basin, Modoc Plateau and East Cascades, Northern Rockies, Blue Mountains, Puget Lowlands

Ecological Systems: Northern Rocky Mountain Dry-mesic Montane Mixed Conifer Forest, Northern Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine Woodland and Savanna, Northern Rocky Mountain Lower Montane - Foothill and Valley Grassland, Columbia Basin Foothill Riparian Woodland and Shrubland, East Cascades Mesic Montane Mixed-Conifer Forest and Woodland, North Pacific Dry-mesic Silver Fir-Western Hemlock-Douglas Fir Forest, North Pacific Hypermaritime Western Red-cedar-Western Hemlock Forest, North Pacific Maritime Dry-mesic Douglas Fir-Western Hemlock Forest, North Pacific Maritime Mesic Subalpine Parkland, North Pacific Maritime Mesic-Wet Douglas Fir Western Hemlock Forest, North Pacific Mesic Western Hemlock-Silver Fir Forest, Northern Rocky Mountain Mesic Montane Mixed Conifer Forest, Northern Rocky Mountain Subalpine Woodland and Parkland, Rocky Mountain Lodgepole Pine Forest, Rocky Mountain Subalpine Dry-mesic Spruce-Fir Forest and Woodland, Rocky Mountain Subalpine Mesic-wet Spruce-Fir Forest and Woodland, Northern Rocky Mountain Subalpine Deciduous Shrubland, North Pacific Avalanche Chute Shrubland

 
Click on photo to enlarge
Click on photo to enlarge
  Male sooty grouse in Washington are characterized by light gray tail bands, 18 tail feathers, and yellow bare patches on the side of their neck which they expose during display. They also perform a loud hooting display.
 
Click on photo to enlarge
Click on photo to enlarge
  Male dusky grouse in Washington are characterized by indistinct tail bands (if present at all), 20 tail feathers, and red bare patches on the side of their neck which they expose during display. They also perform a quiet hooting display.
 
Click on photo to enlarge
Click on photo to enlarge
  Female dusky grouse (shown) are easy to distinguish from males of either species, but difficult to distinguish from female sooty grouse.
 
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  The approximate distribution of sooty and dusky grouse in North America. Map modified from Schroeder (2004).

Grouse Ecology

Dusky and Sooty Grouse (Blue Grouse) Ecology

Dusky grouse and sooty grouse were first described by Lewis and Clark in the early 1800s. In the 1900s, they were combined into a single ‘blue grouse’ species. In 2006, the American Ornithologists Union ‘split’ the blue grouse into the dusky and sooty grouse. Despite the name change, dusky and sooty grouse can be difficult for many people to recognize. The two species have subtle differences in appearance and behavior and little overlap in distribution; sooty grouse generally are found in the relatively moist west-side habitats, while dusky grouse occupy drier east-side habitats.

Dusky and sooty grouse are found throughout western North America. Their range extends from the southern portions of Alaska and the Yukon, south along the Pacific Coast to northern California and east to the Rocky Mountains (New Mexico to Alberta). In Washington, dusky and sooty grouse are found in mountainous areas wherever open coniferous forests are present. They are closely associated with true fir and Douglas fir forests in winter and habitats that are often more open during summer.

Male dusky and sooty grouse perform a hooting display when they are on breeding territories during the spring. Each hooting display consists of a sequence of 5-7 low frequency ‘hoots’ that are detectable from 100 meters (dusky grouse) to more than 2 kilometers (sooty grouse). The males of both species also utter a single ‘whoot’ note when they are displaying to a female that is detectable from about 2 kilometers. Male dusky grouse perform a ‘flutter jump’ which is a loud flight that is detectable from about 1 kilometer. Male sooty grouse exhibit a similar behavior called ‘landing on loud wing’ display where they create an unusually loud noise at the end of a short flight, often while landing in a tree.

Projects

Publications

Other Links and Resources

 

Click on map to enlarge
Click on map to enlarge
 
Click on photo to enlarge
Click on photo to enlarge

The approximate distribution of core areas for sooty and dusky grouse in Washington. The line is an approximation and ‘hybrids’ are common near the line. Map modified from Schroeder (2005).

 

Typical dusky grouse habitat in the Methow Wildlife Area near Twisp, Washington.

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Click on photo to enlarge
 
Click on photo to enlarge
Click on photo to enlarge

Dusky grouse nest on the ground, usually in an open area concealed by understory vegetation and shrubs.

 

Sooty grouse nest on the ground, usually in an open shrubby area surrounded by forest.

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Click on photo to enlarge
   

Sooty grouse habitat is variable, but often includes forests, ridgetops, and avalanche chutes.

   

All photos unless otherwise indicated are courtesy of Michael A. Schroeder