Birds – Dusky, Sooty, And Richardson’s Grouse

Coming to North America, we find several fine Grouse belonging to the genus Dendragapus, which comprises a single species with four subspecies. They are large birds, with the tail four fifths as long as the wing, the only species being the Dusky Grouse (D. obscurus), which is further characterized by having a tail of twenty feathers and the male with distinct inflatable air-sacs on the sides of the neck. The plumage is dusky grayish or dull blackish above and slate-gray below. The female is similar but decidedly smaller and more or less spotted and barred with buff or brownish. The Dusky Grouse, better known as the Blue Grouse, is found in the southern Rocky Mountains from central Arizona to Idaho, South Dakota, and Nevada. It frequents the borders of wooded mountain regions below timber line, and is always resident where found. It is usually very tame and unsuspicious and when startled will frequently fly into the branches of a near-by tree and remain gazing at the intruder while perhaps shot after shot is fired at it with a pistol or rifle. If a covey of half-grown young are flushed, the whole number may sometimes be secured without one attempting to fly. Of the habits of the male during the nesting season, as observed in Colorado, Mr. Gale writes: “It you are anywhere near the haunts of a pair, you will surely hear the male and most likely see him. He may interview you on foot, strutting along before you, in short, hurried steps alternating from right to left, with widespread tail tipped forward, head down and back, and wings dragging along the ground, much in the style of a Turkey gobbler. At other times you may hear his mimic thunder overhead again and again in his flight from tree to tree. As you walk along he leads, and this reconnoitering on his part, if you are not familiar with it, may cause you to suppose that the trees are alive with these Grouse. He then takes his stand upon a rock, stump, or log, and in the manner already described distends the lower part of his neck, opens his frill of white, edged with the darker feather-tips, showing in its center a pink narrow line describing somewhat the segment of a circle, then with very little apparent motion he performs his growling or groaning, and having the strange peculiarity of seeming quite distant when quite near, and near when distant.” The nest, usually well concealed, is a slight depression in the ground and scantily lined with pine needles or grasses. The complement of eggs is from seven to ten or sometimes more. Three well-marked subspecies of this are known : the Sooty Grouse (D. o. fuliginosus), a much darker bird of the mountains of the Northwest; the Sierra Grouse (D. o. sierra), of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains; and Richardson’s Grouse (D. o. richardsonii), of the northern Rocky Mountains, of which the last may be known by the absence of the terminal gray band on the tail. The habits are similar to those of the typical form.