Dendragapus obscurus - (Say, 1822)
Dusky Grouse
Other English Common Names: Blue Grouse, dusky grouse
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Dendragapus obscurus (Say, 1823) (TSN 175860)
French Common Names: tétras sombre
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.795273
Element Code: ABNLC09020
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Other Birds
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Galliformes Phasianidae Dendragapus
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 2006. Forty-seventh supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. The Auk 123(3):1926-936.
Concept Reference Code: A06AOU01EHUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Dendragapus obscurus
Taxonomic Comments: Previously included D. fuliginosus and called Blue Grouse, but now separated on the basis of genetic evidence (Barrowclough et al. 2004) and differences in voice (hooting), behavior, and plumage (Brooks 1929). Barrowclough et al. (2004) also found a lesser genetic difference between northern and southern populations of D. obscurus that does not correspond to currently recognized subspecific boundaries.
Conservation Status

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
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Sep2006)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (02Jan2018)

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 Arizona (S3), Colorado (S5), Idaho (S5), Montana (S4), Navajo Nation (S1), Nevada (S3), New Mexico (S3B,S3N), Oregon (S3), South Dakota (SX), Utah (S4), Washington (S4), Wyoming (S5)
Canada Alberta (S4), British Columbia (S4), Northwest Territories (SU), Yukon Territory (S4)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: RESIDENT: southern Yukon and extreme southwestern MacKenzie south through the mountains of interior British Columbia (excepy coast, southwestern, and south-central areas), southwestern Alberta, eastern Washington, and the Rocky Mountains to eastern Nevada, northern and eastern Arizona, (south to White Mountains), southwestern and north-central New Mexico, western and central Colorado, and (formerly) western South Dakota (AOU 1998, 2006).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: RESIDENT: southern Yukon and extreme southwestern MacKenzie south through the mountains of interior British Columbia (excepy coast, southwestern, and south-central areas), southwestern Alberta, eastern Washington, and the Rocky Mountains to eastern Nevada, northern and eastern Arizona, (south to White Mountains), southwestern and north-central New Mexico, western and central Colorado, and (formerly) western South Dakota (AOU 1998, 2006).

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 AZ, CO, ID, MT, NM, NN, NV, OR, SDextirpated, UT, WA, WY
Canada AB, BC, NT, YT

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AZ Apache (04001)
ID Ada (16001), Custer (16037), Lemhi (16059), Valley (16085)
NM Rio Arriba (35039), San Juan (35045), Sandoval (35043), Socorro (35053)
WA Chelan (53007)+, Ferry (53019)+, Kittitas (53037)+, Lincoln (53043)+, Okanogan (53047)+, Stevens (53065)+, Yakima (53077)+
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
13 Rio Chama (13020102)+, Jemez (13020202)+, Elephant Butte Reservoir (13020211)+
14 Chaco (14080106)+, Chinle (14080204)+
17 Lower Spokane (17010307), Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake (17020001), Kettle (17020002), Colville (17020003), Sanpoil (17020004), Okanogan (17020006), Similkameen (17020007), Methow (17020008), Lake Chelan (17020009), Upper Columbia-Entiat (17020010), Wenatchee (17020011), Upper Yakima (17030001), Naches (17030002), Little Lost (17040217)+, Big Lost (17040218)+, Boise-Mores (17050112)+, Upper Salmon (17060201)+, Pahsimeroi (17060202)+, Middle Salmon-Panther (17060203)+, Lemhi (17060204)+, Lower Middle Fork Salmon (17060206)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: Large grouse, adult males 50.1 cm in length on average, females 44.8 cm (Zwickel 1992 ). Males bluish to blackish gray with black tail feathers that are tipped in white, females brownish gray to brown. Males have bare patches on neck (cervical apteria) that are displayed during courtship; also have bare patches above the eyes (supraorbital apteria) that change from yellow to red during courtship.

Reproduction Comments: Breeding begins mid-April in south to late May in north. Female incubates 7-10, sometimes up to 16, eggs for 26 days. Nestlings precocial. Young tended by female. Yearling males often do not breed. May renest if nest destroyed.
Ecology Comments: Primarily a solitary montane species. Courting males establish a territory. In Colorado, apparently sedentary on winter range (average distance between locations 94-312 m, median 135 m, for 11 radio-marked adults) (Cade and Hoffman 1993).
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: May make seasonal upslope-downslope migrations. In Colorado, elevational changes between breeding and wintering sites were up to 671 m (median 488 m) for males, up to 760 m (median 122 m) for females; one-way migration distance was 1-29 km (median 10.5 km) in males, 0.1-28 km (median 1.0 km) for females; males departed breeding areas from late June to late July, females from late May to late September; both arrived in wintering areas from early October to mid-November (Cade and Hoffman 1993).
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Alpine, Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Grassland/herbaceous, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: Coniferous forest, especially fir, mostly in open situations with a mixture of deciduous trees and shrubs (AOU 1983). Spends winter, usually at higher elevations than summer habitat, in conifer forest of various categories of age and tree density; roosts in large conifers with dense foliage (e.g., Douglas-fir during day, subalpine fir at night, northeastern Utah, Pekins et al. 1991). Nests in montane (mixed or deciduous) forest, also in shrubland in some areas (e.g., southeastern Idaho). Nests on ground under cover of brush, branches, or other vegetation.
Adult Food Habits: Frugivore, Granivore, Herbivore
Immature Food Habits: Frugivore, Granivore, Herbivore
Food Comments: In summer feeds on a variety of berries, insects, flowers, and leaves. In the winter feeds mainly on needles and buds of conifers (Douglas-fir often important). Also eats waste grain.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Length: 51 centimeters
Weight: 1188 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Management Requirements: Winter habitat should be managed to perpetuate large trees important as roost sites (Pekins et al. 1991).
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 27Jun2007
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).

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