Of the 10 North American species, 9 occur in Canada (6 grouse, 3 ptarmigans). Grouse species are blue (Dendragapus obscurus), spruce (D. canadensis), ruffed (Bonasa umbellus), sharp-tailed (Tympanuchus phasianellus) and sage (Centrocercus urophasianus). The greater-prairie-chicken (T. cupido) is extirpated in Canada. Grouse inhabit woodlands, tundra and, in North America, grasslands.
Adult plumages are cryptic patterns of brown, grey and black with paler or white underparts. There are many plumage modifications associated with displays, eg, pointed or curved tail feathers, elongated neck feathers, neck ruffs and pointed primaries. All species have completely or partially feathered legs; when toes are not feathered, they grow 2 rows of narrow scales, like the teeth of a comb, as "snowshoes." Nostrils are covered by feathers.
In breeding season, males give elaborate displays alone or in groups (leks) involving strutting, whirring of wings and sometimes vocal accompaniment. Some have red or yellow erectile combs above the eyes, and colourful neck patches of bare skin which are made prominent by the inflated esophagus.
As a group, grouse are important GAME BIRDS attracting over 10 million hunters annually. Ruffed grouse are the most sought-after species.
See also ENDANGERED ANIMALS.
Author S.D. MACDONALD
Links to Other Sites
Endangered Species in Endangered Spaces
An informative website about rare and endangered plants and animals in the Thompson-Okanagan region of British Columbia. Click on the menu at the left side of the page for information about specific species. From the Royal British Columbia Musuem.
All About Birds
Search this online bird identification guide for information on specific bird species found in North America. Click on the dynamic map of eBird sightings for a magnified view. From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the US.
Hinterland Who's Who
Check out the extensive "Hinterland Who's Who" website for illustrated "Species Fact Sheets" about mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects found in Canada. Also covers related conservation and biodiversity issues and includes related multimedia and educational resources. From the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.