Spruce Grouse

Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis)

spruce grouse

Spruce grouse./T. Berriman

General: Spruce grouse live in northern forests of Canada and the northernmost United States. Their gray or rufous plumage is flecked with black and white; males have conspicuous red eyebrow markings. Spruce grouse inhabit boreal forests, wet spruce forests, pine forests, and mountain ridge forests as well as lower elevation softwood forests and bogs. In summer, they eat leaves, berries, seeds, and insects; in winter they subsist mainly on evergreen needles. Spruce grouse do not migrate, although some make small movements (less than 10 miles) between summer and winter habitats. Year-round, these birds prefer forest stands where trees have live branches at low heights above the ground, combined with dense shrubs and herbaceous plants on the forest floor. Once a softwood stand reaches a certain age, its overhead canopy becomes dense, which causes the trees to “self-prune,” with their lower branches (preferred by spruce grouse) dying and falling off.

Status: Spruce grouse numbers have fallen substantially in the southern part of the species’ range, which includes parts of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The spruce grouse is considered a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in those seven states. Human home and recreational development, combined with a lack of natural disturbances creating dense young forest in softwood stands, threaten this species in the East and Upper Midwest.

How to Help Spruce Grouse: Spruce grouse do best in areas that have a mosaic of softwood forest stands of varying ages. A good way to provide the dense habitat that these birds require, especially in winter, is to conduct even-age timber harvests (also called clearcuts) in softwood stands.
Both public and private landowners can make young forest habitat. The Young Forest Guide explains how.

Click on the map at left to see a larger image.

For more detailed information on this animal, including references to scientific papers, download Under Cover: Wildlife of Shrublands and Young Forest. This publication can also be purchased from the Wildlife Management Institute.

Visit a habitat demonstration area within the spruce grouse’s range to increase your chances of seeing this bird as well as the many other kinds of wildlife that need young forest habitat.