WatchList Species Account for Sooty Grouse
(Dendragapus fuliginosus)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species


Photo: © Dow Williams

Photo: © Dow Williams

Originally described as separate species, for much of the 20th Century the prevailing taxonomy lumped the the Sooty and Dusky Grouse into a single species, the Blue Grouse. In 2006 the American Ornithologists' Union restored the split, with the Dusky Grouse being the species of the interior mountains and the Sooty Grouse  that of the Pacific region. 


The Sooty is a large grouse that breeds in forest habitats from sea level to the alpine zone, with lowland forest among the principal habitats. The bird is found both in old-growth forest and early successional forest after logging or fire. It feeds primarily on plant material but juveniles make heavy use of invertebrates while older grouse may feed on grasshoppers during the late summer. The birds are permanent residents but may move short distances , generally to higher elevations, during the winter. 


Although local extirpation has occurred in areas developed for agriculture or for urban sprawl, the bird still occupies most of its original range, though perhaps at lower densities in some places.  Some coastal populations increase spectacularly after clear-cut logging but decline to low levels as tree canopy closes, remaining so until the canopy is reopened. Other populations have responded negatively to clear cuts and grazing by domestic animals may have a negative effect. The grouse is a popular game bird but the impact on populations from hunting is apparently light.