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. 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.

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

Click map markers to reveal further information

Click map markers to reveal further information