This dark grouse is found in Minnesota only in the most northern part of the state. It is far more common in Canada, which has plenty of the spruce forests that this bird prefers.
General description: The spruce grouse has a similar in size and shape as the ruffed grouse. But it is darker and has a head that's a colorful mix of red, yellow and white, especially during the spring mating season.
Length: 16 to 19 inches.
Weight: About 1 1/5 pounds.
Color: Feathers are black and brown, banded with white.
Sound: During the mating season, the male tries to attract females by making one or two loud "claps," caused by beating air beneath its wings. Both sexes make a soft clucking sound.
Spruce grouse mate in April or May. Hens nest on the ground where they lay as many as 12 eggs that hatch in 24 days. Chicks can fly in two weeks. They stay with their mother for about three months.
Spruce grouse eat spruce needles and buds. Young birds eat mainly insects in summer.
Great horned owls, goshawks martens, fishers, and foxes are the main animals that hunt and eat spruce grouse. Some hunters pursue these birds.
Habitat and range
Spruce grouse live in the birch and evergreen (coniferous) forests of extreme northern Minnesota, generally from Duluth northwest to the northwestern corner of the state.
Population and management
The spruce grouse population is small when compared to the ruffed grouse. That's because there is far more ruffed grouse habitat in Minnesota than spruce grouse habitat. Each year, hunters harvest between 10,000 and 20,000 in the state without affecting the population.
The spruce grouse has several nicknames, such as fool's hen and fool's grouse. The names come from the fact that spruce grouse aren't afraid of people. Like other Minnesota grouse species, spruce grouse spend most of the winter days in snow burrows to stay warm and avoid predators.