Sooty Grouse: Large, chicken-like bird, dark gray to blue-gray with yellow-orange eye comb, black tail with wide pale gray terminal band. Patch of yellow skin with red veining on neck surrounded by white feathers is displayed during courtship. Formerly (with Dusky Grouse) known as the Blue Grouse.
Range and Habitat
Sooty Grouse: Found in southeastern Alaska to California in a narrow range between the coast and the western Rocky Mountains. One exception is an inland range in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. Prefers semi-open woodlands and mature stands of hemlock, cedar, spruce, and white fir in winter.
The Sooty Grouse and the Dusky Grouse were considered to be the same species, the Blue Grouse, until the American Ornithologists’ Union split them in 2006 based on DNA evidence.
They have large numbers of eggs in their clutches, as many as fifteen have been observed. Even though hatching success may be as high as 90%, mortality of the young can reach as much as 50% prior to the fall hunting season. This is often due to inclement weather after the hatch as well as a poor food supply or predators.
When flushed, these birds will often fly to an evergreen bough and freeze at which time one may be able to walk to within a few feet of the bird.
A group of grouse has many collective nouns, including a "chorus", "covey", "drumming", "grumbling", and "leash" of grouse.
The Sooty Grouse lives in mixed forests throughout North America’s Pacific Coast. Preferred breeding habitats are found at the edges of conifer and mixed woodlands in mountain ranges of Alaska, the Yukon and California. Nests are built on the ground, and are shallow scrapes concealed under dead vegetation or low shrubbery. This species is typically a permanent resident all year long. However, they may travel shorter distances to denser forest or higher altitudes during the winter months. Food is found by foraging on the ground, and diets consist of fir needles. The conservation rating for the Sooty Grouse is Least Concern.