Last Updated on Monday, 14 December 2009 13:51
Common Name: Spruce Grouse
Also referred to as: Black Partridge, Canada Grouse, Franklin Grouse, Spruce Partridge, Tyee Grouse, Fool Hen
Genus species: Falcipennis canadensis
Recognized subspecies: F. c. canadensis and F. c. franklinii
- Total length: 380-430 mm.
- Wing Chord: Adult male, 161-92 mm; adult female, 159-91 mm.
- Tail: Adult male, 107-44 mm; adult female, 94-119 mm.
- Weight: Male, 492 g; female, 456 g (average).
- Dorsal feathers of the Spruce Grouse are generally intermediate gray and barred with blackish gray. Forehead, throat, cheeks, and upper breast are black narrowly bordered with white. Scapulo-humeral feathers streaked through the middle with white that broadens terminally.
- Upper tail coverts have bold white tips in the Franklin’s Grouse (F. c. franklinii), but are narrowly tipped with glaucous in Spruce Grouse.
- Adult males are dark in colour with conspicuous red eye combs, which are usually covered by feathers.
- Female breast feathers are barred with brown, those of males are black tipped with white.
- Males have black tail feather rectrices, tipped and lightly flecked with brown; females’ are fuscous or black and barred with brown.
- Legs are feathered to the toes.
North American Distribution
Movements and Migratory Habits
Diet and Foraging Strategy
North American Distribution:
- Range extends approximately from the tree line in Alaska to Labrador (introduced to Newfoundland), south to north east Oregon, western Montana, northwest Wyoming, northern Minnesota, Michigan, northern New Hampshire, northern Vermont, northern New York, and Maine.
- In Alberta, this grouse is found in the Rocky Mountain, Foothills, and Boreal Forest Natural Regions. Removal of coniferous forests in central Alberta has decreased population numbers in those regions.
- Falcipennis canadensis is not found in southeast Alberta.
- The Spruce Grouse is closely associated with conifer-dominated forests.
- Typical habitat may be fire-origin pine (lodgepole: Pinus contorta, jack: Pinus banksiana), spruce (Picea spp.) dominated forests, and coastal forests of hemlock (Tsuga spp.) and cedar (Thuja spp.).
- Spruce Grouse seem to prefer younger successional stands or mixed-aged stands, where the live branches of many trees are low to the ground providing cover.
- Forest structure utilized by these birds consists of a relatively well-developed middle story, 7-14 m crown height, and stands that are somewhat dense (2500-3500 stems per ha).
- Winter habitats consist mainly of coniferous trees of various species that provide both food and cover requirements; when the snow is deep, Spruce Grouse spend much of their time in the tree canopy.
Movements and Migratory Habits:
- Some movement occurs between different breeding and wintering ranges, although many Spruce Grouse remain sedentary throughout the year.
- Grouse that move between breeding and wintering ranges will migrate up to 11 km.
- Fall migration to wintering range may occur from mid-August to late December.
- Arrival on breeding grounds ranges from mid-February to mid-May with males arriving first.
- Home range size of an individual can average approximately 24 ha (up to 346 ha for yearling males).
Diet and Foraging Strategy:
- Adults will utilize berries, tips of small shrubs, forbs, and insects in their summer diet.
- A shift in diet occurs in the fall, from foods taken mostly from the forest floor to food available in the conifer browse (often at mid-crown level) in the winter.
- Needles from pine (Pinus spp) and other coniferous trees such as spruce (Picea spp) make up a portion of the diet in the summer and may be the sole food item in the winter diet.
- Yellow needles from tamarack (Larix laricina) may constitute part of the diet in the fall.
- Spruce Grouse predominantly forage in the early morning and late afternoon periods.
- Chicks under a week old may subsist primarily on insects.
- The breeding season of Falcipennis canadensis occurs in the spring, between February and May.
- Male breeding behaviour may consist of erecting breast and tail plumage, slightly drooping the wings, bobbing of the head, and presenting the side of the head thereby showing the engorged red eye combs. Courtship displays include the tail-swish and head-jerk display. During the tail-swish, the head and tail are erect with under-tail coverts widely spread while slowly moving forward. The head-jerk occurs when the male squats by the female and rapidly stamps his feet, the head is quickly turned from side to side, wings are slightly spread away from the flanks, and repeated fanning of the rectrices occurs.
- Males are polygynous; females are monogamous.
- Nests are usually a simple bowl-like depression in moss-covered ground, lined with feathers, grasses and leaves.
- Nests are built within well concealed locations such as under low branches, or deep in moss often at the base of a conifer tree. Clumps of willow (Salix spp.) and alder (Alnus spp.) may be utilized as nest cover as well.
- Egg laying may begin as early as late May and continue until early July.
- Colour of eggs may vary in shades of tawny olive with spots and blotches of brown.
- Size of the egg can average 42 mm in length and 31 mm in breadth.
- Incubation and care for the young is carried out by the female only; incubation period is usually 21-24 days.
- Clutch size can be 7-8 eggs.
- The hatch may be delayed by cooler temperatures and precipitation; potentially lowering nest success.
- Re-nesting often occurs if the first nesting attempt is not successful.
- Hatch is synchronous, the precocial chicks usually leave the nest within one day of the hatch.
- Dispersal of broods may begin when chicks are 9-12 weeks old (usually early to mid September).
- Federal: Not Listed
- Provincial: Secure
Spruce Grouse photo © 2007 Wolfgang Zintl. Retrieved from www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-4186086-spruce-grouse.php on 22/09/09. Used with permission.
Boag, D. A. and M. A. Schroeder. 1992. Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: <http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/005doi:10.2173/bna.5> Accessed 18 May 2009.
Federation of Alberta Naturalists. 2007. The atlas of breeding birds of Alberta: a second look. Federation of Alberta Naturalists, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Godfrey, W. E. 1986. The Birds of Canada. Revised edition. National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.
Johnsgard, P.A. 1973. Grouse and Quails of North America. The University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.
Robinson, W. L. 1969. Habitat selection by spruce grouse in northern Michigan. The Journal of Wildlife Management. 33: 113-120.
Salt, W. R. 1966. The Birds of Alberta. Second edition. Government of Alberta, Department of Industry and Development, Edmonton, Alberta.
Smyth, K. E., and D. A. Boag. 1984. Production in spruce grouse and its relationship to environmental factors and population parameters. Can. J. Zool. 62: 2250-2257.
The World Pheasant Association. 1978. Woodland Grouse 1978.Culloden House, Inverness, Scotland.