A spruce grouse is a wild, chicken-like bird that mainly lives in Canada and the northwestern area of the United States. It is usually shades of gray and white, and may sometimes appear speckled or striped. This bird gets its name from the fact that it eats pine needles, especially those of a spruce tree.
These birds are usually around 15 inches (38.1 cm) in length. They may have a wingspan of around 22 inches (55.9 cm) wide. Small birds usually weigh around 14.1 ounces (400 g), while larger birds can weigh as much as 22.9 ounces (650 g).
The male of the species is usually a very dark gray color and can appear to be almost black at times. He usually has splotches of white on his neck and tips of the tail. A male spruce grouse also has red combs, like those of a rooster, above both of his eyes.
A female bird is normally a very light gray to light brown in color. She may have white speckles or splotches on her head, wings, and tail. She usually lays her eggs and raises her young on the ground, rather than in a nest up in a tree. Her lighter coloring helps her flock to blend in with their surroundings so predators will not harm them.
Spruce grouse do not normally migrate south for the winter. They typically move only short distances from where they are raised. They mostly travel by foot because they are generally able to fly only a few feet at a time.
These birds are sometimes called fools hens or stupid chickens. This is because a spruce grouse does not usually become easily frightened when people happen upon them in their natural environment. It is believed that they react this way because they feel as though they are safely concealed in the forest. During the winter, these animals feel less secure in their camouflage due to the snow. During these months, the birds will often flee when people are between 20 to 150 feet (6 to 45 m) away.
A spruce grouse is typically a very quiet bird. They may make soft clucking noises and will occasionally call to one another. Male birds sometimes flap their wings anxiously, especially if they feel threatened by other male birds during the mating season.
These fowl are listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This means that they are not threatened, or close to being endangered. Even so, spruce grouse have suffered from a loss of their natural habitat due to over-development in some areas. This sometimes means that hunting of these birds is prohibited or restricted.