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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Spruce Grouse -- Dendragapus canadensis

RANGE: Resident from northern Alaska to northern Quebec, Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia south to south-coastal and southeastern Alaska, northern Oregon, southeastern Idaho, northwestern Wyoming, western Montana, and southeastern Alberta to northern Minnesota east to northern Vermont, northern New Hampshire, and eastern Maine (range is generally congruent with that of the northern coniferous forest).

STATUS: Uncommon in most of the southern portions of its range.

HABITAT: Inhabits short-needled coniferous forests, especially where living branches reach the ground and where there are numerous, scattered forest openings of a few hundred square feet. In the northeast, prefers wet lowland edges; farther west, prefers higher ground. Generally prefers a mixture of jack pine or lodgepole pine and spruce, and a sparse ground cover. Males establish breeding territories in dense pine stands. Shows little fear of humans and often called "fool hen."

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Large tracts of coniferous forest.

NEST: Nests on the ground in well-concealed sites, often under low branches of spruce, jack pine, or white pine; in brush; in deep moss; or adjacent to a tree trunk or stump.

FOOD: During winter, consumes diet of nearly 100 percent conifer needles. In other seasons, consumes a variety of foods, including leaves, flowers, berries, seeds, pine needles, and a few insects. Needs a source of fine, mineral-rich gravel.

REFERENCES: Johnsgard 1973, Pendergast and Boag 1970, Robinson 1969, 1980, Robinson in Farrand 1983a.

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