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A photo of a Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus), male
Dusky Grouse, Male

Dusky Grouse

Dendragapus obscurus

The dusky grouse, known scientifically as Dendragapus obscurus, is a forest-dwelling grouse native to the Rocky Mountains of North America. This bird exhibits sexual dimorphism, with adult males displaying a dark plumage, a distinctive purplish throat air sac framed by white, and a yellow to red wattle above the eye during their display. Adult females, on the other hand, are mottled brown with intricate patterns of dark brown and white on their underparts.

Identification Tips

To identify the dusky grouse, look for the long square tail with a gray terminal band. The males are predominantly dark with unique coloration on the throat and above the eye, especially noticeable when they are displaying. Females blend more with their surroundings due to their mottled brown plumage, which provides excellent camouflage.

Habitat

The dusky grouse favors the edges of conifer and mixed forests in mountainous regions. These birds are intricately linked to the presence of various conifers, which provide both shelter and food.

Distribution

This species is found throughout the western North American mountain ranges, from southeastern Alaska and Yukon, stretching down to New Mexico. Their distribution is a testament to their adaptability to various elevations and forest types within this range.

Behaviour

Dusky grouse are permanent residents of their range, though they exhibit an unusual behavior of moving to higher altitudes in winter. They travel by foot and short flights to reach denser forest areas when the temperature drops.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the dusky grouse shifts seasonally. In winter, they primarily consume needles of fir and Douglas-fir trees, occasionally adding hemlock and pine needles. With the arrival of spring and summer, their diet diversifies to include the fresh green growth of herbaceous perennials, berry plants, and a variety of invertebrates, which are particularly crucial for the growth of their chicks.

Breeding

During the breeding season, males can be heard delivering deep hoots within their territories and performing short flapping flights as part of their courtship display. After mating, females depart from the male's territory to raise their young.

Conservation status

The dusky grouse is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that, at present, this species does not face any imminent threats to its survival.

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