Saturday, 6 October 2012

Fancy chickens in the north

Spruce Grouse have to be one of my favorite bird species, one I don't get to see enough of. Prior this year I think I only had one sighting of this species in Ontario! In early April, a visit to Algonquin Park gave me great  views, though way too brief, of a displaying male. In July I managed to flush a female Spruce Grouse from a thick spruce thicket in the Rainy River District. Finally on this trip, we had some great sightings of this species and we got to spend a prolonged amount of time studying them.

The above image is the typical way we would first see these birds - standing on the side of the road. On the drive to the Abitibi dam, we managed to see 7 separate Spruce Grouse! One group contained a male and three females.

Grouse are amazingly tame and if we moved slowly, we were able to walk right up to them. I had to take the 1.4x extender off of my lens, and even then they were too close!

A few kilometres down the road, this little guy wattled onto the shoulder. We drove back to where he was and watched him do his thing for a few minutes. Male Spruce Grouse, like many other "chickens", have a mating system that involves an elaborate display in an attempt to woo the females. This time of year, the temperature and length of daylight is similar to the spring, when mating happens. This triggers the males to perform their displays, though they probably won't get lucky since the females aren't ready to mate in the autumn. This Sprucer did not display while we were here, but that is probably why he was on the road - a nice open area, with good visibility for all the females to see him!


  1. Awesome bird. Amazing photos. I would love to see one some day. I haven't even been to Algonquin yet!

  2. Dwayne,
    Skip Algonquin and get to the real north sometime! It is definitely worth it. Up there, the default chickadee is Boreal, White-winged Crossbills, Pine Grosbeaks, and Evening Grosbeaks can be abundant, and Spruce Grouse are easy to find. Plus all the other northern boreal birds are present.

    Glad you liked the photos :)

  3. Josh, you got some great photos here. Fine job!!