Spruce Grouse

Falcipennis canadensis
Range Map

Trusting in its camouflage, the Spruce Grouse commonly allows close approach. This behavior earned it the nickname of ‘fool’s hen’. The home range of these birds is throughout most of Canada, Alaska and a few areas in the northern USA. These birds are non-migratory wherever they are found. Mostly, they feed on the needles of spruces and other conifers.

Taxonomists call out eight subspecies of Spruce Grouse in two types:

  • Canada Spruce Grouse
    • C. c. canadensis lives from northern and central Alaska through northern British Columbia east to the Canadian Maritime Provinces.
    • C. c. labradorius lives in the Labrador area of Newfoundland, and has been introduced to the Island of Newfoundland.
    • C. c. osgoodi lives in the Yukon, northern British Columbia, and Alaska north of the coast mountains.
    • C. c. atratus lives coastally in southern Alaska from Bristol Bay to Prince William Sound.
    • C. c. torridus lives on the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and perhaps eastern Maine.
    • C. c. canace lives in southeastern Canada from southern Manitoba east to New Brunswick and south into the northern United States from northern Minnesota east to Maine.
  • Franklin’s Spruce Grouse
    • C. c. isleibi lives in the Alexander islands of southeastern Alaska.
    • C. c. franklinii lives in the Rocky Mountains from central British Columbia and southwestern Alberta south to eastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, and northwestern Wyoming.

While driving north on the Dempster Highway in 2005, we passed through the Ogilvie River Valley in the Yukon Territory (Canada). It was there I met a Spruce Grouse hen. The bird brazenly stood in the road until we stopped to enjoy her company more intimately. After she calmly walked to the side of the road, we followed on foot and found her perched and posing in a small Black Spruce. She stayed for several minutes while we gathered all the images we wanted. She was still perched there when we left. We could have whacked her with a big stick if we were so inclined. Lucky for the bird we did not intend to eat it.

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