Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis)
The Spruce Grouse, Falcipennis canadensis, can be found throughout Canada excepting for the extreme north. Then in the United States you can find the Grouse in Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Northern New England and Michigan. The Spruce Grouse lives in forests that contain coniferous trees, especially if they are pine and spruce trees.
The Spruce Grouse is 13 inches long and is a medium-sized, stocky, chicken-looking bird with rounded wings and a long squarish tail. The male grouse looks similar to the Blue Grouse, the only difference being the white barring and spotting on his under parts, as the Blue Grouse is totally brown. Another small difference is the tip of the tail, which is grey/black in comparison to the Spruce Grouse who has a brown tip. The “Franklin” variety of the Spruce Grouse doesn’t have the brown tip but has a white speckled upper tail.
The adult male bird wears a red comb that just covers his eyes. His neck is black, excepting for the white border around it, and his belly is grey with white spots and has black barring on the upper parts. His breast is black and has white bars going across it and his upper tail is black speckled with white spots and a pale brown band at the top.
The adult female bird has a reddish-brown or grey-brown plumage that is covered with white and dark-brown barring on the under parts and a black tail with the same brown band. She does not have the red comb like her male counterpart. The female Spruce Grouse looks very alike the female Blue Grouse but has white and black barring on her belly and the band on the tail is brown not grey. The female will make a nest on the ground, which is camouflaged well by the ground cover. The Spruce Grouse is a permanent resident but will move a small distance by foot if they need another location for winter.
During winter these birds will look for food either on the ground or in trees. The grouse is well adapted and their digestive sacs in their intestines can enlarge in size to quite an extent to accommodate the grouse’s winter diet of conifer needles. In summer they will include in their diet berries, insects and a variety of green plants. If you happen to come upon a Spruce grouse they tend to stand still even if you are only a few feet away from them. However, in the winter months they become more skittish due to lack of camouflaging and will take flight if you come within 20 to 150 feet of them.