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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

Blue Grouse -- Dendragapus obscurus

RANGE: Resident from southeastern Alaska, southern Yukon, and extreme southwestern Mackenzie south along the Pacific Coast to northern California; in mountains to central California, northeastern Nevada, northern Arizona, Colorado, and northern New Mexico; rare in mountains of southern California. Closely associated with Douglas-fir and true firs.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Occupies a fairly vertical range in the western mountains, breeding at lower elevations in open stands of conifers or aspens with a brush understory, in meadows or in stands of mixed brush and herbs interspersed with bare ground adjacent to aspens or conifers. Males display in relatively open stands of trees or shrubs on earth mounds, rocks, logs, cutbanks, and occasionally tree limbs. During autumn, moves up from the open breeding range to stands of conifers or to timberline.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Medium to large forest openings; shrubs, grasses, and forbs for nesting.

NEST: Nests in a shallow depression on the ground, well-concealed near logs or rocks, at the base of a tree, under sagebrush, or in the shelter of chokecherry, aspen, or cottonwood.

FOOD: During winter, eats diet limited to needles and buds of conifers, especially Douglas-fir, but also other firs, hemlock, and lodgepole pine. In other seasons, eats berries, flowers and leaves of herbaceous plants, and insects. In warm weather seldom far from a source of water. Can obtain necessary water from succulent vegetation or berries, if available.

REFERENCES: Beer 1943, Bendell and Elliott 1966, Harju in Farrand 1983a, Johnsgard 1973, Rogers 1968, Terres 1980, Verner and Boss 1980.

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