Family Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse (Phasianidae)

Least Concern

Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus)


French: Tétras sombre German: Douglasiengebirgshuhn Spanish: Gallo oscuro
Other common names: Blue Grouse (when lumped with D. fuliginosus)

Tetrao obscurus


, 1823,

“Defile Creek”, Colorado, USA


Often lumped with D. fuliginosus, which has yellow, not red, exposed breast patch in display (3); distinct pale tailband (2); and differences in hooting song#R, involving usually five vs usually six syllables (“hoots”) given at both lower pitch (50–100 Hz vs 110–150 Hz) and lower volume (audible to 40 m vs loud and audible to 500 m) (at least 2); genetic data support the split, but also suggest present species has N and S populations that do not conform to current subspecific divisions#R; races sierrae and howardi of D. fuliginosus, sometimes placed in present species#R. Proposed race flemingi (S Yukon) usually included in richardsonii#R. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. o. richardsonii (Douglas, 1829) – W Canada from SE Yukon and SW Northwest Territories S through British Columbia and W Alberta to N USA (N Idaho and perhaps NW Montana).
  • D. o. pallidus Swarth, 1931 – SW Canada (SC British Columbia) S through E Washington to NE Oregon, most of Idaho, W Montana and N & W Wyoming.
  • D. o. obscurus (Say, 1823) – Rocky Mts from C Wyoming S through Utah and Colorado to N & E Arizona and W New Mexico. May formerly have ranged E to W South Dakota, although more likely introduced there.
  • D. o. oreinus Behle & Selander, 1951 – NE Nevada (Snake Range, Ruby Mts and Toiyabe Range), S Idaho and W Utah (Deep Creek Mts).
  • Descriptive notes

    Male 47–57 cm, c. 1245 g; female 44–48 cm, c. 850 g. Relatively large grouse; male mostly grey or slate-coloured, lacking black breast of ... read more


    Male song consists of series of five far-carrying hooting notes, usually delivered from on or... read more


    Wide range of habitats in mountain zones, with greater preference for shrub-steppe and grassland... read more

    Food and feeding

    Winter diet consists almost entirely (c. 90–99%) of needles, but including buds, twigs and cones, of firs (Pseudotsuga,... read more


    Lays late Apr–Jun, mostly from mid May. Promiscuous; males dispersed, on territories that are occupied year after year, although... read more


    Altitudinal shifts between breeding and wintering grounds reported for most areas; in winter... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Global population c. 3,000,000 mature individuals. Still occupies most of original very large range, with some contractions due to... read more

    Recommended citation

    de Juana, E., Kirwan, G.M. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 6 December 2019).