Spruce Grouse - Falcipennis canadensis
The spruce grouse is 13 inches in length and looks a little like a chicken. The male has gray and brown feathers speckled with white, a red comb over his eyes, a black throat, and a black chest with a white border. The female is a mottled grayish-brown with white bars and spots. She has no comb.
The spruce grouse is found in most parts of Canada, except for the extreme north. In the United States, it is found in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Michigan, and Northern New England, including New Hampshire.
The spruce grouse lives in coniferous forests, especially those with spruce and pine trees.
Most of the spruce grouse's diet is made up of the needles and buds of conifer trees like jack pine, juniper, spruce, larch, and lodge-pole pine. It is often found in trees plucking needles off of branches. It the summer it may also eat berries, seeds, mushrooms, and insects. The spruce grouse also eats small stones to help break down food in its gizzard. In the winter, it only eats the needles of conifer trees. To accomodate the shift in its winter diet, the spruce grouse's gizzard becomes larger, and its digestive tract becomes about 40% longer.
During mating season, the male struts around ruffling his feathers and beating his wings. Sometimes he flies just above the ground and flaps his wings to attract a female. The female lays 4-11 eggs in a hollow lined with moss, grass, and leaves. The nest is usually built under low lying branches of a spruce tree. The chicks hatch after about 3 weeks and fledge when they are 10 days old.
The spruce grouse is also known as the "Fool Hen" because it is so tame you can walk right up to it and pick it up!
Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Tayler Brooks