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Bird Habitat Conservation Toolkit

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The Dusky Grouse was considered a subspecies of the Blue Grouse until 2016, when it was recognized as a separate species.

Dusky Grouse

(Dendragapus obscurus)
Overview
status
AlbertaSecure
British ColumbiaYellow
SaskatchewanAbsent
Primary Habitat
Old Coniferous
Nest Type
Ground
Territory Size
Unknown
Nest Reuse
Some
Breeding Window
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Oct
Nov
Dec
Peak: early June to late September
Stand-Level
Patches (1–4 ha) of Douglas fir >150 years old with clumps of mature ESSF or Aw.
Landscape-Level
Old Douglas fir (>200 years old) containing openings; heterogeneous landscapes

Habitat Ecology

  • Dusky Grouse occupy a range of habitats including sagebrush and grasslands. They use forest habitats including ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and true fir. Aspen thickets are important habitat for juveniles and breeding males.1
  • During the winter, this species migrates to higher elevations (up to >3,600 m) to conifer-dominated stands including Douglas fir, subalpine fir, lodgepole pine, limber pine, Engelmann spruce, and western hemlock.1,2
  • Conifer needles, particularly Douglas fir needles, are an important winter food source.1
  • Ground nests are built in well-developed herbaceous and shrub layers within forest openings.1 Fallen, suspended logs may increase nesting success.3

Response to Forest Management

  • Responses to harvest are not well-studied or well-understood,1 however the loss of coniferous habitats and structural diversity due to harvesting are considered threats to the Dusky Grouse.4
  • This species has been observed feeding on planted ponderosa pine seedlings in Idaho.5

Stand-level Recommendations

  • Selective logging with retention of old (>150 years if available), large-diameter Douglas fir and clumps of mature subalpine fir and/or Engelmann spruce is recommended within wintering habitats. Recommended retention patch sizes range from 1 ha to >4 ha.4,6,7

Landscape-level Recommendations

  • Heterogeneous landscapes including shrubby grasslands, open ponderosa pine with aspen groves, and Douglas fir with true fir appear to provide a range of high-quality breeding and wintering habitat.1,6
  • Within Douglas fir forests on intensively managed landscapes (e.g., subject to extensive clearcutting), old (>200 year-old) Douglas fir stands should be represented.6
  • Uneven-aged management that promotes structural diversity, creates forest openings, and maintains patches and stands exceeding the rotation age, as occurs in an NRV scenario or using ecosystem-based management, are likely to benefit this species throughout its range.4,7

References

  1. Zwickel, F. C. & Bendell, J. F. 2005. Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus), version 2.0. in The Birds of North America (Rodewald, P. G., ed.) Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA. Available online: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/dusgro
  2. Pekins, P. J., Lindzey, F. G. & Gessaman, J. A. 1991. Physical Characteristics of Blue Grouse Winter-Use Trees and Roost Sites. Great Basin Naturalist 51: 244–248.
  3. Pelren, E. C. & Crawford, J. A. 1999. Blue Grouse nesting parameters and habitat associations in northeastern Oregon. Great Basin Naturalist 59: 368–373. Available online: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www....
  4. Environment Canada. 2013. Bird Conservation Strategy for Bird Conservation Region 9 Pacific and Yukon Region: Great Basin. Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Delta, British Columbia. 105 pages + appendices.
  5. Curtis, J. D. & Elder, F. S. 1965. Blue grouse feeding on planted ponderosa pine. Journal of Wildlife Management 29: 199–200.
  6. Remington, T. E. & Hoffman, R. W. 1996. Food habits and preferences of blue grouse during winter. The Journal of Wildlife Management 60: 808–817. Available online: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3802381
  7. Environment Canada. 2013. Bird Conservation Strategy for Bird Conservation Region 10 in Pacific and Yukon Region - Northern Rockies. Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Delta, British Columbia. 109 pages + appendices.

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