Falcipennis canadensis - (Linnaeus, 1758)
Spruce Grouse
Other English Common Names: spruce grouse
Synonym(s): Canachites canadensis (Linnaeus, 1758) ;Dendragapus canadensis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Falcipennis canadensis (Linnaeus, 1758) (TSN 553896)
French Common Names: tétras du Canada
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.104936
Element Code: ABNLC09010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Other Birds
Image 10859

© Michael Patrikeev

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Galliformes Phasianidae Falcipennis
Genus Size: A - Monotypic genus
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Falcipennis canadensis
Taxonomic Comments: This species formerly was included in the genus Dendragapus. Based on Ellsworth et al. (1995), it was transferred to Falcipennis (AOU 1997). Dickinson (2003) included it in the genus Canachites.

The form resident from southeastern Alaska, central British Columbia and west-central Alberta south to northern Oregon, central Idaho, western Montana, and northwestern Wyoming formerly was regarded as a separate species, F. franklinii (AOU 1983). Ellsworth et al. (1995) examined phylogenetic relationships among North American grouse based on mtDNA data and found that F. canadensis is more closely related to Bonasa umbellus (ruffed grouse) than to Dendragapus obscurus (blue grouse), which is allied with Lagopus (ptarmigan) and Tetrao (capercaillie, a European grouse).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 07Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 25Nov1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Demonstrably secure on a global basis at present: declining only in segments of southern fringe of range; large total number of birds, extensive range, protected occurrences and large proportion of range unlikely ever to be destroyed.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Jan1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (09Mar2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alaska (S5), Idaho (S3), Maine (S4S5), Michigan (S2), Minnesota (SNR), Montana (S4), New Hampshire (S3), New York (S2), Oregon (S3), Vermont (S1), Washington (S4), Wisconsin (S1S2)
Canada Alberta (S5), British Columbia (S5), Labrador (S5), Manitoba (S4), New Brunswick (S5), Newfoundland Island (SNA), Northwest Territories (S5), Nova Scotia (S4), Nunavut (SU), Ontario (S5), Quebec (S5), Saskatchewan (S5B,S5N), Yukon Territory (S5)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: RESIDENT: Canada and the northern United States, from central Alaska, Yukon, and Mackenzie east to Labrador, and south into the mountains of northeastern Oregon, central Idaho, western Montana, and northwestern Wyoming; farther east, the southern extent is the extreme northern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan's Lower Peninsula, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and eastern Maine (AOU 1983).

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Number of element occurrences is likely more than 1000 because of the extensive range of this species.

Population Size: 10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Dominant threat is loss, degradation, and fragmentation of habitat by incompatible forest management practices, including suppression of fire in pine-dominated habitat. In the Adirondacks, New York, loss of spruce-fir forest was cited as an important factor in recent declines (Bouta and Chambers 1990). Patchy distribution and small average population size make it particularly vulnerable to extirpation. In New York, and likely in some other parts of its range, coniferous forests suitable for grouse regenerated to unsuitable hardwoods after logging. At the other extreme, Keppie and Beaudette (1990) concluded that the natural process of succession in the spruce-fir forest at Yellow Bogs, Vermont has proceeded beyond the stage most useful to spruce grouse. Trees there were greater than 20 m high and lacked live branches at 2 to 10 m above ground. Crown thinning had proceeded to the point where less than 60% of the tree height was in live crown. They stated "For whatever the reason(s), we do not find many birds in conifer stands (spruce, fir, pine) in which tree height >15 m and live- crown <50% of total height." Since these grouse require earlier successional stages, logging per se has not necessarily always been detrimental to this species. Habitat fragmentation caused by human development patterns has been detrimental in the southeastern portion of spruce grouse range. In Michigan, habitat changes (logging out pine forests, followed by replacement by aspen and oaks) led to decline in the northern Lower Peninsula by early 1900s. In the Upper Peninsula where jack pine and spruces mingle in complexes of dry mounds surrounded by small swamps, especially in northern Chippewa and Schoolcraft Counties, the grouse appears to be holding its own. It may also be expected to thrive in jack pine areas managed for Kirtland's warbler (DENDROICA KIRTLANDII) habitat in the Lower Peninsula, as both species require relatively young jack pine stands. It has been protected since 1915 as a nongame species, but some accidental take by hunters, perhaps numbering several hundred per year, occurs nonetheless. Habitat destruction, continues to be the major threat to the species in the state. Accidental kills by hunters in the Lower Peninsula could also be serious, because populations there are small and isolated (Robinson 1991). Major timber harvests planned for the lodgepole pine habitat in Washington state potentially threaten the species, although the effect depends on the methods and patterns of harvest over space and time. A core population, encompassing perhaps 1/4 of the state's spruce grouse range, is in wilderness areas, where timber harvest is not permitted (Ware, pers. comm.). Spruce grouse are particularly vulnerable to hunting and exploitation because they are not wary of humans. Gabrielson and Lincoln (1959) commented that the species is so easily hunted that it quickly disappears from the vicinity of settlements in Alaska. The degree of threat posed by hunting varies among different areas; hunting harvest apparently is sustainable in some areas. Overall, threat is low due to vastness of potential habitat, association with wet forest types, and inaccessibility of much of the species range.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: While declining in some segments of the southern fringe of its range (especially in the Northeast), there are still vast areas to the north with stable populations. In Minnesota, Berg (pers. comm.) reported that the state population is apparently increasing as succession in the northern part of state improves habitat. The species can be expected to undergo a decline in the future as this area either becomes overmature for spruce grouse habitat or is subjected to renewed timber harvests sometime in the next 20 years. Distribution in Wisconsin has apparently changed little since a 1943 compilation. Has declined in the Adirondacks, New York, since the late 1800s and recently (Bouta and Chambers 1990). In New Hampshire, it is not known whether or not the species' range within the state has changed in recent times. In New York, population decline has been noted since the late 1800s, and the geographic range has been reduced by half or more from early reports. Trends for the Vermont population are not yet known, but monitoring began in 1990. Keppie (pers. comm.) stated that distribution and abundance in New Brunswick may be changing: large scale harvest of spruce-fir stands will cause declines, but there will likely be many local increases in areas planted to jack pine. He stated that the birds are now colonizing young jack pine plantations only 17 years old. Jewett et al. (1953) reported that spruce grouse had "suffered an alarming decrease" in Washington, and that complete protection from hunting was required to preserve the state population. Recent hunting harvest data show no evidence of decline.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Inventory is needed along southern fringe of range to establish baseline data and determine which populations are most in need of protection.

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) RESIDENT: Canada and the northern United States, from central Alaska, Yukon, and Mackenzie east to Labrador, and south into the mountains of northeastern Oregon, central Idaho, western Montana, and northwestern Wyoming; farther east, the southern extent is the extreme northern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan's Lower Peninsula, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and eastern Maine (AOU 1983).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AK, ID, ME, MI, MN, MT, NH, NY, OR, VT, WA, WI
Canada AB, BC, LB, MB, NB, NFexotic, NS, NT, NU, ON, QC, SK, YT

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: WILDSPACETM 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
ID Idaho (16049)
MI Chippewa (26033), Crawford (26039), Delta (26041), Dickinson (26043), Luce (26095), Mackinac (26097), Marquette (26103), Ogemaw (26129), Oscoda (26135), Schoolcraft (26153)
NH Coos (33007), Grafton (33009)
NY Essex (36031), Franklin (36033), Hamilton (36041), St. Lawrence (36089)
VT Caledonia (50005)*, Essex (50009), Orleans (50019)*
WI Ashland (55003), Bayfield (55007), Douglas (55031), Florence (55037), Forest (55041), Iron (55051), Langlade (55067), Marinette (55075), Oneida (55085), Price (55099), Sawyer (55113), Vilas (55125)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Upper Androscoggin (01040001)+, Lower Androscoggin (01040002)+, Saco (01060002)+, Upper Connecticut (01080101)+, Passumpsic (01080102)+, Waits (01080103)+
04 Beartrap-Nemadji (04010301)+, Bad-Montreal (04010302)+, Dead-Kelsey (04020105)+, Betsy-Chocolay (04020201)+, Tahquamenon (04020202)+, Waiska (04020203)+, Oconto (04030104)+, Peshtigo (04030105)+, Brule (04030106)+, Menominee (04030108)+, Cedar-Ford (04030109)+, Tacoosh-Whitefish (04030111)+, Wolf (04030202)+, Manistique (04060106)+, Brevoort-Millecoquins (04060107)+, Carp-Pine (04070002)+, Au Sable (04070007)+, Black (04150101)+, Grass (04150304)+, Raquette (04150305)+, St. Regis (04150306)+, Saranac River (04150406)+, St. Francois River (04150500)+*
07 Upper St. Croix (07030001)+, Namekagon (07030002)+, Upper Chippewa (07050001)+, Flambeau (07050002)+, South Fork Flambeau (07050003)+, Upper Wisconsin (07070001)+, Lake Dubay (07070002)+
17 South Fork Clearwater (17060305)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A North American grouse of the northern spruce and pine forests.
Reproduction Comments: Mating occurs in spring. The males' display includes puffing up the body feathers, strutting and tail spreading, a "squeak call," short flights ("flutter flights") between tree and ground with rapid wing beats either during the ascent or descent, and occasionally, a very brief standing display of 1 to 3 rapid wing beats which produces a quiet but audible thump (Robinson 1980). The latter, as well as the flutter flight has sometimes been called "drumming", but this is misleading (Keppie, pers. comm.; Robinson, pers. comm.). The noise from the display is audible for less than 100 m even under good conditions, and thus bears little resemblance to the loud drumming of ruffed grouse. Franklin's race gives a loud double clap, like hands clapping, as it alights in its flutter flight. The flutter flight displays have several variations that are briefly described by Robinson (1980).

Males and females are apparently both promiscuous and do not form pair bonds (Ellison 1973). Copulatory behavior was described by Harju (1971).

Median date of commencement of egg laying was 15 May in Ontario (range 8-21 May, 5 yr of data), 18 May in New Brunswick (range 14-21 May, 7 yr data), and 29 May in Alberta (range 28 May - 1 June, 4 yr data) (Keppie and Towers, unpublished data). In Michigan laying occurred in late May to early June (Robinson 1980). Commencement of egg-laying may be influenced by plant development, as year to year variation in median dates has been shown to be correlated with first flowers of blueberry and trailing arbutus, and the dates for 50% snow cover (Keppie and Towers 1990). Male displays cease soon (within nine days) after the median date of commencement of egg laying (Keppie 1991). Females lay eggs over a period of several days and commence incubating only after the clutch is completed. Robinson (1980) estimated that hens lay an egg about every 2 days, so that it would take 10 to 12 days to complete clutch of 5 or 6 eggs. Keppie (1982) used the figure of 1.5 days per egg.

Clutch size varies across range. Keppie (1982) compared production of juveniles in populations from New Brunswick (race CANACE) and Alberta (race FRANKLINII). Clutch size was significantly larger in New Brunswick than in Alberta (5.6 eggs vs. 4.8 eggs, respectively), but average brood size did not differ between the two populations (about 3.3 chicks per brood). Among New Brunswick females, yearlings produced fewer eggs per clutch than did older females ("adults"). There was no difference among Alberta females of different ages. Clutches in a Michigan study averaged 5.7 eggs (Robinson 1980). In Ontario, large clutch size was associated with high intake of trailing arbutus flowers and moss spore capsules; grouse relied on spring diet and stored reserves for nutrients required for clutch formation (Naylor and Bendell 1989). Keppie (1975) reported on previous compilations of clutch sizes. Over the entire distribution of spruce grouse, clutch size averages 5.8 eggs. Alaskan grouse (race OSGOODI) had the largest average clutch size, 7.5 eggs. This is consistent with a general trend of increased reproductive potential with increasing latitude.

Incubation lasts 21-23 days (Robinson 1980, Keppie 1982), but also has been reported as 23-24 days. During incubation the female spends over 90 percent of her time on the nest (McCourt et al. 1973). It takes about 30 days from the commencement of laying to hatching. Median date of hatching was 15 June in Ontario, 16 June in New Brunswick, and 29 June in Alberta (Keppie and Towers, unpubl. data).

Young are tended by the female. The precocial young can fly short distances by 6 days of age and can feed themselves immediately. Reports of very large broods are likely due to mixing of chicks between broods. This is known to occur in chicks that are more than 10 days old (Keppie 1975). Robinson (1980) documented several instances of chicks switching broods, and recorded combined broods as large as 14 chicks. Individual females produce one clutch per season. A few birds attempt renesting when a first clutch is destroyed. Keppie (1991) estimated the frequency of renesting at 7.6%. Dispersal of young occurs in late summer-early fall.

Females first breed as yearlings, but yearling males generally do not breed. Keppie (1982) compared breeding rates of females of different ages and different races. He estimated that at least 94% of New Brunswick females did nest. Between 84 and 100% of the females had broods in the New Brunswick population, and yearlings did not differ from adults (at least 2 years old) in frequency with broods. In the Alberta population (subspecies FRANKLINII), only 40% to 62% of females had broods, and yearlings less often had broods than did older adults. Data on percentage that nested was not obtained for this population, but no evidence was encountered to suggest that some females did not nest. In Michigan, 67% to 88% of females had broods each year from 1965 to 1969 (Robinson 1980). Szuba and Bendell (1988) found that 44% of males did not obtain territories (and presumably, therefore did not breed) until they were adults (their 3rd spring). Some were nonterritorial for 3 or more years. Only 10% of adult males were nonterritorial, and presumably nonbreeding. Most birds breed in not more than two seasons.

Keppie (1982) found a much higher nest success rate (proportion of nests in which at least one egg hatched) in a New Brunswick population than in an Alberta population (81% vs. 29% success, respectively) due to much greater nest predation rates in Alberta than New Brunswick. These differences were apparently related to poorer nest concealment in Alberta, where the forest had much less ground cover and shrubs (Redmond et al. 1982). Keppie and Herzog (1978) found that within an Alberta population, nest success was highest among well concealed nests compared to poorly concealed nests. Coastal Alaskan grouse had slightly lower nest success rates than New Brunswick grouse (Keppie 1982); overall production in the New Brunswick population was nearly double that of the Alberta population (2.0 end of season juveniles per female versus 1.1, respectively). Poor productivity in Alberta was associated with years with cold, wet weather during incubation (Smyth and Boag 1984).

Spruce grouse have the nickname "fool hen" because they are notoriously unwary of humans. They have been noted to be very wary of predators, however (Robinson, pers. comm.). They do not flush readily and are easy to catch with a noose on a pole. A female incubating a nest of eggs usually will not flush unless she is touched by the intruder (Robinson 1980).

Ecology Comments: Populations generally occur at low densities, spaced by male and female territoriality during breeding, nesting, and, to a lesser extent, brood rearing (Keppie 1987). Females are territorial during breeding and nesting, and clearly avoid one another during this period (Herzog and Boag 1977, Robinson 1980). Males maintain their own territories during the courtship and nesting period, often using the same territory year-round for life (Robinson 1980). Only one male, in 5 years of study on two populations in Gogama, Ontario, was known to move its territory, and then only about 300 meters (Szuba and Bendell 1988). Female aggressive calls during mating and egg laying apparently resulted in evenly spaced female territories in Herzog and Boag's (1977) study in Alberta.

Rarely are "flocks" larger than 2 individuals in spring and summer (except for females with broods), and even in fall and winter, the average flock size calculated from observations of 268 flocks was 3.0 birds per flock (Ellison 1973). Larger autumn flocks (average of 3.8 birds) were partially accounted for by females still with broods. Telemetered birds showed that in late fall and winter flocks were very temporary, with the same birds associating for only a few days, and that birds were probably unrelated (Ellison 1973). The largest flocks recorded were 6 to 15 birds. Adult males apparently remain quite solitary even in winter, but juveniles are less solitary (Ellison 1973). Robinson (1980), in Michigan, found fall flocks of 4 to 12 spruce grouse, composed of mixed sexes, ages and families. The proportion of unbanded birds in these flocks was somewhat higher than that encountered in August, suggesting that birds were moving in from outside the study area, and that these larger flocks were probably composed of dispersing birds.

In Alaska, Ellison (1973) found that home range sizes were highly variable among individuals, ranging from 6 to 21 ha for preincubating females, 6 to 155 ha for brood-rearing females, 3 to 20 ha for molting males, 6 to 160 ha for either sex in fall, and 3 to 113 ha in winter. Robinson (1980) also reported highly variable range size for females with broods, but concluded that 12 to 16 ha would be adequate on the Yellow Dog Plains of Upper Michigan. Home range for broods on Mt. Desert Island, Maine, was 13-26 ha (O'Connell et al. 1995).

Two populations at Sevogle, New Brunswick, ranged from 9.8 to 21.9 grouse per sq km (adult males and females and yearlings present during period of 1 May to 30 June) over a 4 year period (Keppie 1987). Similar densities were reported for a population in southwestern Alberta, where population density in spring varied between 10.5 and 19.3 birds per sq km over a ten year period (Boag et al. 1979). Further data showed a fluctuation of between 5 and 30 birds per sq km over 21 years; a population decline was attributed to forest maturation (Boag and Schroeder 1987). It is interesting that population densities were so similar in these populations, because habitat characteristics were quite different. Populations in New York occur at estimated densities of 1.0 to 9.6 birds per sq km (composition unspecified, "breeding population;" Bouta and Chambers 1988). A Michigan population in the Yellow Dog Plains of Marquette County had 4.6 to 9.0 birds per sq km (presumably both sexes and yearlings) in spring (Robinson 1980). Grouse from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula occurred at intermediate spring densities of 7 to 11 birds per sq km (presumably both sexes and yearlings) over an area of habitat some 2000 sq km. This population must have numbered over 10,000 birds in the 1960s (Ellison 1973). The highest reported densities for this species are from central Ontario, where populations exceed 50 birds per sq km in prime habitat (Szuba and Bendell 1983). Keppie (pers. comm.) also has documented population densities of 50 birds per sq km. At Gogama, Ontario, Szuba and Bendell (1988) found densities of 28.0 to 36.0 males per sq km in May. One study in Alberta suggested that late spring population size was rather stable (Boag et al. 1979).

Young tend to disperse in the fall, but more so in some areas than others. Overall emigration rates for both sexes in New Brunswick exceeded emigration in an Alberta population (Keppie 1982). A higher percentage of female juveniles disperse than males (e.g., 95% vs. 77% in New Brunswick). Females were shown to disperse farther than males (an average of 5 km vs. 3.7 km, respectively) in a Michigan population (Robinson 1980).

In Alberta, yearling and adult annual survival averaged 68% overall (Boag et al. 1979). Female survival, at 63%, was lower than male survival, at 72%, producing a slight, but significant, male bias in sex ratio among adults (1.12 males: 1 females) (Boag et al. 1979). Annual survival rates for all adults and yearlings in New Brunswwick was 47% (Keppie 1987). Keppie (1979) reported an overwintering survival rate of 88% for all ages and sexes in a population in southwest Alberta. Overwinter survival of adults and yearlings, males and females was similar in this population. In Michigan's Yellow Dog Plains, adult males survived at rate of 50% per year, while females had a slightly lower rate of 45% per year. Robinson (1980) noted that the Michigan population's survival rate was intermediate between the Alberta populations and an Alaskan population described by Ellison, which had 31-38% adult survival. Robinson concluded that survival seems to balance clutch size variation throughout the range: the Alaskan population having the largest clutches, and lowest adult survival, Alberta at the opposite end with smaller clutches and highest survival, and Michigan in the middle on both traits.

There is little in the literature about longevity, despite many banding studies. The oldest individuals in Robinson's studies were three males, two that reached 6 years, and one that was at least 7.5 years old. The oldest female lived 5.5 years (Robinson 1980).

Although a number of studies of population dynamics have been conducted, it is still not possible to generalize about the main factors influencing population size across the species' range. Results in different populations and in different years within the same population have been contradictory. Rates of emigration and juvenile recruitment, especially survival through the first winter, clearly have a strong impact on population size, but these factors are not clearly related to density, or predictable from simple physical variables such as habitat characteristics or weather (Boag et al. 1979, Robinson 1980, Keppie 1982). Female and male territoriality may also affect some aspects of population density and production (Ellison 1973, Herzog and Boag 1977, Szuba and Bendell 1988).

Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Year-round residents throughout their range; do not undertake any long-distance migrations. Overwinter in the same region as they nest, though they may make local movements, essentially short-distance migrations, to use different habitat types, or simply different locations, during winter. A population in southwestern Alberta was shown to have a portion of the population that migrated short distances between breeding and wintering grounds. The same birds apparently migrated each year (Herzog and Keppie 1980). This has also been found true in Ontario and New Brunswick (Keppie, pers. comm., unpublished data). Distances between Alberta breeding and wintering sites ranged from 0.5 to 9.5 kilometers. Females were more likely to migrate than males (44% vs. 18% migrated, respectively). Migrating females did not differ from resident birds in survival or breeding rate (Herzog and Keppie 1980).

Schroeder (1985) reported on behavioral differences between individuals migrating shorter or longer distances in Alberta. He described short-distance migration as less than 2 km, while long- distance migrants moved as much as 11 km. Keppie (pers. comm.) reported migration distances of 25 km in central Ontario and 18 km in New Brunswick (unpublished data).

Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Conifer, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: A species of northern coniferous forests of various species compositions, but always including short-needled trees. Forest types inhabited range from boreal forest and wet spruce forests in the far north to jack pine-spruce, jack pine, or spruce-fir associations in the southeastern portions of the range (from Minnesota east), and in southwestern Canada, lodgepole pine, usually with small inclusions of clumped spruce (Redmond et al. 1982, Boag et al. 1979, Pietz and Tester 1982, Boag and Schroeder 1992). In Alaska, habitat is white spruce and birch, or black spruce (Ellison 1973), especially the dense spruce forests along rivers (Bent 1932). Robinson (1980) concluded that in the northeast, Spruce Grouse prefer wet lowland forests, but also use adjacent uplands occasionally. However, farther west, the species becomes less dependent on swamps and increasingly prefers more upland habitat.

Though forest species composition varies across the range, the habitat has certain features in common throughout. One regular component of habitat everywhere is inclusion of areas with an understory of low berries, especially VACCINIUM spp., an important food source. The key feature is a forest structure that provides good cover for these ground-nesting birds. This means either live branches from 0-4 meters above ground level, or sufficient tree density to create suitable escape cover. Lodgepole and jack pine forests must be young enough that trees have not begun to self-prune. Generally, they must be less than about 12 m in height. Thus in areas where grouse occupy jack pine and lodgepole pine forests, they are essentially a successional species. Populations may be highest in earlier stages of post-fire succession (Boag and Schroeder 1987). Older pine forests are used only when subdominant spruce are also present. Mature fir stands will also self-prune and become unsuitable. Mature spruce stands are more suitable (Robinson 1980; Keppie, pers. comm.).

Redmond et al. (1982) compared habitat in New Brunswick and southwestern Alberta. The lodgepole pine forests in the latter had sparse shrub cover, whereas the former's jack pine-spruce forest habitat had much greater (about 10x) shrub cover. In northern Washington state, were found to preferentially occupy mixed lodgepole pine/Engelmann spruce stands (Ratti et al. 1984). In Maine, preferred lowland conifer habitat (Hedberg 1980).

Largely arboreal in winter, less so in summer. Roost and feed in trees in winter, but nest and feed on the ground as well as feed in trees in the spring and summer. In Minnesota, Pietz and Tester (1982) found that grouse preferred jack pine upland in winter, and moved into black spruce bogs for nesting and summer range. When jack pine stands were occasionally used for nesting, the ground cover and tree density was similar to that of the black spruce nesting areas. In this study spruce grouse and sympatric ruffed grouse (BONASA UMBELLUS) overlapped in winter range, but not in summer habitat choices. Keppie (pers. comm.) however, commented that Ruffed Grouse are often seen in Spruce Grouse range in summer elsewhere. In other studies where jack pine uplands were not available, spruce grouse remained in black spruce lowlands year round (Pietz and Tester 1982). A study in Maine showed that the grouse used more open forest areas in summer than winter, probably because of greater availability of summer foods in more open areas (Hedberg 1980, Allan 1985). Similar patterns were found in New York (Chambers, pers. comm.). During the summer molting period, males in the Maine study area used areas where the forest canopy was more closed compared to the areas used by females (Hedberg 1980).

Nests are on the ground in a slight depression scraped out, with minimal lining of twigs, grasses, and/or leaves. They are located in a variety of locations, but most often under low branches of young conifers, brush, or other vegetation or against the trunk of trees. Nests are usually well-concealed by surrounding vegetation and the cryptic coloration of the female (Robinson 1980, Redmond et al. 1982).

Adult Food Habits: Herbivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: In summer, spruce grouse feed on berries, insects and ground vegetation. Juveniles eat a greater diversity of foods than do adults, and a higher proportion of their diet is insects (Pendergast and Boag 1970). Blueberries are often noted as a favored food in summer.

These grouse subsist exclusively on conifer needles during the winter. The species of tree favored depends on the location, but all have short needles. In the southern portions of the range, pine needles (lodgepole in the west, jack pine in the east) are a common winter food, but white and black spruce are also consumed (e.g., Naylor and Bendell 1989). In Alaska and Maine spruce needles are reported to dominate the winter diet. Larch needles are eaten in Maine in the fall (Allan 1985). Balsam fir and red spruce have also been reported as foods (Keppie, pers. comm.). In New York, balsam fir is the predominant winter food, and tamarack the major late summer-fall food (Chambers, pers. comm.).

In one food selection experiment using captive birds in Washington state, it was found that spruce grouse preferred lodgepole pine needles over Engelmann spruce needles, and in fact could not survive over winter on a diet of the spruce alone. The birds in this study could usually distinguish between branches from "activity" trees (roosting/feeding trees) and randomly selected trees (Hohf et al. 1987). Another study in Michigan found that the grouse selected certain trees for winter feeding, and that the individual jack pine trees browsed by spruce grouse had higher crude protein, lower crude fat, and higher ash content that unbrowsed trees. The browsed trees were also older than trees not selected (average of 36.3 years vs. 33.5 years, respectively) (Gurchinoff and Robinson 1972). The reason for selection of older trees is not clear, and this selectivity is curious in light of the fact that the highest recorded densities of spruce grouse occur in jack pine stands only 10 to 20 years old (Keppie, pers. comm.).

During incubation, several studies have found that female spruce grouse feed selectively on new leaders of spruce, apparently for the high calcium content (Pendergast and Boag 1970). A study in Ontario showed that females preferred arbutus flowers and spore capsules of POLYTRICHUM mosses in the spring, and that females which produced larger clutches ate proportionately more of these two foods than females producing smaller clutches. Compared with the winter diet, spring breeding- season foods were higher in protein and phosphorous (Naylor and Bendell 1989).

Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Length: 41 centimeters
Weight: 492 grams
Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: Hunted as a game species in some states.

Robinson (1980) gave a thorough treatment of the variety of opinions about spruce grouse as a game species.

Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: A species of northern coniferous forests, ranging from the northern limits of spruce forest in Alaska and Canada, south into the mountains of northeastern Oregon and northwestern Wyoming, and east just into the northern tier of states from Minnesota eastward. Its habitat includes a variety of forest types from boreal forest and wet spruce forests in the far north to dry jack pine and lodgepole pine forests in portions of its southern range. This great variety of habitats have in common two main features--they always include a short-needled tree component and trees with live branches to ground level, at least in patches of the area, if not throughout. In pines, spruce grouse is essentially a mid-successional species, lasting until low branches begin to die out because of self-thinning.

These requirements relate to the biology of the bird: it is resident year-round throughout its range, feeding entirely on short conifer needles in the winter, and it is a ground-nesting bird, requiring low branches for cover. Secure throughout much of their range, but declining or very rare, occurring only in small, isolated populations, along the southern fringe, especially in the east. There, the range of the species has been reduced by human land-use and development patterns. In some areas, the problem is habitat destruction by deforestation, in others it is overmature forest structure. In those regions where spruce grouse have declined, the species would benefit from forest management designed to keep pockets of habitat in earlier successional stages. Information is needed on optimal size and distribution of such "pockets."

Restoration Potential: Securing populations in New York is possible if habitat can be preserved and expanded to provide corridors for migration and interchange between isolated subpopulations. The state is also considering introductions into unoccupied suitable habitat (Chambers, pers. comm.). Vermont might also expand its population if habitat can be expanded with appropriate management.
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Protection, in form of compatible timber management practices, is needed along southern fringe of range, particularly where logging continues or is expanding into grouse habitat. There, a mixture of upland/lowland conifer forest types, including jack pine or lodgepole pine with inclusions of spruce swamp or clumps would be most likely to benefit the grouse. For long-term maintenance of the species, a large area with a mosaic of even-aged stands of pine and pine-spruce including an array of different age classes is probably ideal (Boag and Schroeder 1992; Keppie, pers. comm.; Robinson, pers. comm.; Chambers, pers. comm.). Protection of spruce lowland forest is also important. In some areas the grouse may use both upland pines and lowland spruce in the course of a year (Pietz and Tester 1982). Preservation efforts in areas with highly fragmented habitat will encounter the most difficulty in providing for the long-term survival of the species. The critical degree of fragmentation will need to be determined, but will likely be related to the usual dispersal distance of the species (only rarely greater than 10 km). Such areas will require creative planning designed to enlarge smaller patches or develop connecting corridors of habitat among patches. Because the ability to move among patches of varying suitability is more limited in fragmented landscapes, management designed to maintain forests perpetually in the closed canopy state might be most appropriate in such areas.

Populations in small habitat patches will be especially difficult to preserve because population size may be below the viable limit. What size of preserve is adequate has yet to be determined, and will vary with habitat type and quality. In a habitat assessment for Vermont, Keppie and Beaudette (Appendix II in Pence et al. 1990) concluded that a female grouse needs 5 to 15 ha of habitat (depending on quality) to raise a brood. From this it can be extrapolated that a population of 100 birds (both male and female) would require between 250 and 750 ha. Minimum viable population size is not known, but presuming around 100 birds would be satisfactory, 1000 ha would be a fairly conservative area to aim for in designing a preserve. Unpublished analyses by B. Rusk suggest that maintenance of a viable population may require a forest area of at least a few thousand hectares.

Management Requirements: Since the grouse is apparently only declining in the southern portion of its range, the following discussion of management requirements is directed entirely at this region. Little work has so far been directed at management practices for spruce grouse. A few studies have produced results suggestive of management strategies. Chambers (pers. comm.) suggested that fire management may be a good tool in pine habitat. Good habitat in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula had stands varying from 60 to 200 years old, due to past fires (Ellison 1973). Hohf et al. (1987) concluded that mixed species timber management, in particular, management for a mixture of lodgepole pine and Engelmann spruce, is best in the southwestern portion of its range. Vermont studies indicate overmature spruce is poor habitat. Keppie (pers. comm.), after years of study across Canada, is convinced that the key to good management is to provide a continual supply of extensive areas of dense stands of trees with live branches 0-4 m above ground. Chambers (pers. comm.) has concluded that the species does best in younger to middle-aged habitats. From the above it can be concluded that management directed at the landscape level, with a goal of producing a mosaic of jack pine or lodgepole pine and pine-spruce stands in an array of age states from regenerating to mature, and including lowland spruce forest patches, is most likely to be beneficial for this species. The optimal size of even-aged stands within such a mosaic, the spatial pattern, or the overall size of the landscape complex has not been determined. A logical starting point is to maintain a distance between appropriate habitat patches that is less than the known average dispersal distance of spruce grouse, i.e., no more than a few kilometers. Either fire or harvest/planting management is feasible. The second important aspect of management is to minimize or eliminate hunting pressure in areas where populations are small, fragmented and marginally viable. It is not clear what level of hunting pressure the species can withstand in areas with extensive habitat and healthy populations. Although it has not been studied directly, many have speculated that because the species is so "tame" it may be easy to over-hunt.
Monitoring Requirements: Areas with small isolated populations and sparse habitat should monitor populations regularly. States on the southern edge of the range that allow hunting should monitor to make sure that populations are not declining. For example, Minnesota and Washington both have fairly large hunting harvests. Monitoring populations in these states would help to show the effects of hunting on this species. Two effective methods for estimating numbers of territorial males, a wing-clapping index and playbacks of recorded female calls, were described and evaluated by Shroeder and Boag (1989). Keppie (pers. comm.) noted that the playback method seems to only work for Franklin's race. See Keppie (1992) for information on a method, used in Ontario and New Brunswick, for estimating density based on counts of fluttering sounds made by males as they descend to the ground at dawn.
Management Research Needs: In order to develop effective management strategies, research is needed in several areas. No priority is intended by the order of the following list:

1) To be able to monitor populations and determine status, effective and practical techniques are needed. Ratti et al. (1984) suggested that density of activity trees (larger than average lodgepole pine where grouse roosted and fed) could be a good indication of population density. Activity trees were easier to identify (based on droppings) than censusing grouse. Further investigation is needed to establish whether this method would work.

2) The effects of habitat patchiness on dispersal and long-term survival needs further investigation. Some questions that need answers include: What is adequate connectedness of patchy habitat? What size of patch is needed to maintain viable populations? How does habitat quality relate to patch size?

3) What are the critical aspects of habitat quality for spruce grouse? Can criteria for judging habitat quality be applied across different forest types, or does each type need its own criteria? What is a relatively quick and effective method of measuring habitat quality?

4) What are the long- and short-term effects of timber harvest? How do different forest management practices and prescribed fire management affect grouse? Is one time of year better than others for timber harvests?

5) What level of hunting pressure can the species withstand? How can hunting pressure best be monitored?

Biological Research Needs: Research into effects of different timber management practices and fire is needed. Population viability analyses for southern populations would also be useful.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Grouse and Ptarmigan

Use Class: Not applicable
Subtype(s): Lek, Nesting Area, Nesting Season Foraging Area, Nonbreeding Habitat, Year-round Habitat
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more birds in appropriate habitat.
Mapping Guidance: To the extent possible and practicable, occurrences should encompass the annual range of a population. If winter and summer ranges are distinctly separate, map using separate polygons. If they are more than 15 kilometers apart, separate breeding and nonbreeding occurrences should be created.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 15 km
Separation Justification: Unsuitable habitat includes open water as well as other habitats through or over which birds may travel but in which they do not nest or forage much if at all.

Occurrences are difficult to circumscribe because most species are partially migratory (i.e., some individuals migrate small or large distances whereas others are relatively sedentary) (see Schroeder and Braun 1993). Migrations may extend up to 12 kilometers in Blue Grouse (Pelren 1996), up to about 40 km (usually less than 25 km) in Greater Prairie-Chickens in Colorado (Schroeder and Braun 1993), and up to 170 km in Greater Prairie-Chickens in Wisconsin.

Adult male (and probably adult female) Lesser Prairie-Chickens have high fidelity to breeding leks (Giesen 1998), and some leks have persisted more than 30 to 40 years (Copelin 1963, Giesen 1998). Largest individual home ranges recorded are of males in winter; in Texas, these ranged from 331-1945 hectares (n = 4; Taylor and Guthery 1980a). Maximum movements between spring leks and late-fall relocations was 20.8 kilometers for subadults and 3.2 kilometers for adults (Campbell 1970). Combined home ranges of males and females associated with breeding leks ranged from 25.2 to 61.9 square kilometers (minimum convex polygon) in Colorado (n = 4 leks; Giesen 1991).

Female Greater Prairie-Chickens (T. c. attwateri) had winter home ranges as large as 910 hectares (Horkel 1979). Median female home range in late spring was 266 hectares (Schroeder 1991).

Summer home ranges of sharp-tailed grouse range from 13 to 406 hectares (summarized by Connelly 1998). Individuals generally fly less than 5 kilometers to a winter range (Giesen and Connelly 1993), but can fly up to 20 kilometers (Meints 1991). Some ptarmigan (e.g. Rock in northern North America) can be considered migratory.

Greater Sage-Grouse: average nest to lek distance about 3 kilometers (Connelly et al. 2000).

Separation distance is somewhat arbitrary and is less than the extent of known seasonal movements of some species. However, a longer separation distance in many cases likely would yield unreasonably large occurrences or, for some species, might join separate populations as single occurrences. Note that locations separated by a gap exceeding the separation distance should be treated as the same occurrence if there is evidence indicating that such patches encompass the same population (e.g., individuals are known to migrate between the patches).

Date: 26Apr2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 21May1992
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Judith Soule. Updated/edited by G. Hammerson.
Management Information Edition Date: 21May1992
Management Information Edition Author: J. SOULE; REVISIONS BY G. HAMMERSON AND D.W. MEHLMAN
Management Information Acknowledgments: The following people answered questions and supplied written information and reference material about spruce grouse in their states: Bill Berg (MN), Andy Cutko (NH), Alan Hutchinson (ME), Bonita Eliason (MN), Kathryn Schneider (NY), Stan Temple (WI), Chris Fitchel (VT), David Ware (WA), Tim Vogt (WI), Craig Groves (ID). Robert Chambers, William Robinson, and Daniel Keppie kindly agreed to review the first draft, and provided many useful clarifications, much added information, and valuable help in synthesizing the diverse information on habitats used by spruce grouse.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 11Apr1996
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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Note: All species and ecological community data presented in NatureServe Explorer at http://explorer.natureserve.org were updated to be current with NatureServe's central databases as of March 2018.
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Citation for data on website including State Distribution, Watershed, and Reptile Range maps:
NatureServe. 2018. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://explorer.natureserve.org. (Accessed:

Citation for Bird Range Maps of North America:
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Bird Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE."

Citation for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
Patterson, B.D., G. Ceballos, W. Sechrest, M.F. Tognelli, T. Brooks, L. Luna, P. Ortega, I. Salazar, and B.E. Young. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy-Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International-CABS, World Wildlife Fund-US, and Environment Canada-WILDSPACE."

Citation for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2004. Global Amphibian Assessment. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe, Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
"Data developed as part of the Global Amphibian Assessment and provided by IUCN-World Conservation Union, Conservation International and NatureServe."

NOTE: Full metadata for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/birdDistributionmapsmetadatav1.pdf.

Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/mammalsDistributionmetadatav1.pdf.

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