Grouse /ɡraʊs/ are a group of birds from the order Galliformes, in the family Phasianidae. Grouse are frequently assigned to the subfamily Tetraoninae (sometimes Tetraonidae), a classification supported by mitochondrial DNA sequence studies, and applied by the American Ornithologists' Union, ITIS, and others. Grouse inhabit temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, from pine forests to moorland and mountainside, from 83°N (rock ptarmigan in northern Greenland) to 28°N (Attwater's prairie chicken in Texas).
Temporal range: Early Pliocene to recent
|Male sage grouse|
Tetraonidae Vigors, 1825
Grouse are heavily built like other Galliformes, such as chickens. They range in length from 31 to 95 cm (12 to 37 in), and in weight from 0.3 to 6.5 kg (0.66 to 14.33 lb). Males are bigger than females—twice as heavy in the western capercaillie, the biggest member of the family. Grouse have feathered nostrils. Their legs are feathered to the toes, and in winter the toes, too, have feathers or small scales on the sides, an adaptation for walking on snow and burrowing into it for shelter. Unlike other Galliformes, they have no spurs.
These birds feed mainly on vegetation—buds, catkins, leaves, and twigs—which typically accounts for over 95% of adults' food by weight. Thus, their diets vary greatly with the seasons. Hatchlings eat mostly insects and other invertebrates, gradually reducing their proportion of animal food to adult levels. Several of the forest-living species are notable for eating large quantities of conifer needles, which most other vertebrates refuse. To digest vegetable food, grouse have big crops and gizzards, eat grit to break up food, and have long intestines with well-developed caeca in which symbiotic bacteria digest cellulose.
Forest species flock only in autumn and winter, though individuals tolerate each other when they meet. Prairie species are more social, and tundra species (ptarmigans, Lagopus) are the most social, forming flocks of up to 100 in winter. All grouse spend most of their time on the ground, though when alarmed, they may take off in a flurry and go into a long glide.
Most species stay within their breeding range all year, but make short seasonal movements; many individuals of the ptarmigan (called rock ptarmigan in the US) and willow grouse (called willow ptarmigan in the US) migrate hundreds of kilometers.
In all but one species (the willow ptarmigan), males are polygamous. Many species have elaborate courtship displays on the ground at dawn and dusk, which in some are given in leks. The displays feature males' brightly colored combs and in some species, brightly colored inflatable sacs on the sides of their necks. The males display their plumage, give vocalizations that vary widely between species, and may engage in other activities, such as drumming or fluttering their wings, rattling their tails, and making display flights. Occasionally, males fight.
The nest is a shallow depression or scrape on the ground—often in cover—with a scanty lining of plant material. The female lays one clutch, but may replace it if the eggs are lost. She begins to lay about a week after mating and lays one egg every day or two; the clutch comprises five to 12 eggs. The eggs have the shape of hen's eggs and are pale yellow, sparsely spotted with brown. On laying the second-last or last egg, the female starts 21 to 28 days of incubation. Chicks hatch in dense, yellow-brown down and leave the nest immediately. They soon develop feathers and can fly shortly before they are two weeks old. The female (and the male in the willow grouse) stays with them and protects them until their first autumn, when they reach their mature weights (except in the male capercaillies). They are sexually mature the following spring, but often do not mate until later years.
Grouse make up a considerable part of the vertebrate biomass in the Arctic and Subarctic. Their numbers may fall sharply in years of bad weather or high predator populations—significant grouse populations are a major food source for lynx, foxes, martens, and birds of prey. However, because of their large clutches, they can recover quickly.
The three tundra species have maintained their former numbers. The prairie and forest species have declined greatly because of habitat loss, though popular game birds such as the red grouse and the ruffed grouse have benefited from habitat management. Most grouse species are listed by the IUCN as "least concern" or "near threatened", but the greater and lesser prairie chicken are listed as "vulnerable" and the Gunnison grouse is listed as "endangered". Some subspecies, such as Attwater's prairie chicken and the Cantabrian capercaillie, and some national and regional populations are also in danger.
The phenotypic difference between males and females is called sexual dimorphism. Male grouse tend to be larger than female grouse, which seems to hold true across all the species of grouse, with some difference within each species in terms of how drastic the size difference is. The hypothesis with the most supporting evidence for the evolution of sexual dimorphism in grouse is sexual selection. Sexual selection favors large males; stronger selection for larger size in males leads to greater size dimorphism. Female size will increase correspondingly as male size increases, and this is due to heredity (but not to the extent of the male size). This is because females that are smaller will still be able to reproduce without a substantial disadvantage, but this is not the case with males. The largest among the male grouse (commonly dubbed 'Biggrouse') attract the greatest numbers of females during their mating seasons,
Male grouse display lekking behavior, which is when many males come together in one area and put on displays to attract females. Females selectively choose among the males present for traits they find more appealing. Male grouse exhibit two types: typical lekking and exploded lekking. In typical lekking, males display in small areas, and in exploded lekking, displays are done in areas that do not have many resources for females. Male grouse can also compete with one another for access to female grouse through territoriality, in which a male defends a territory which has resources that females need, like food and nest sites. These differences in male behavior in mating systems account for the evolution of body size in grouse. Males of territorial species were smaller than those of exploded lekking species, and males of typical lekking species were the largest overall. The male birds that exhibit lekking behavior, and have to compete with other males for females to choose them, have higher sexual size dimorphism. This supports the hypothesis of sexual selection affecting male body size and also gives an explanation for why some species of grouse have a more drastic difference between male and female body size than others.
Sexual size dimorphism can manifest itself differently between grouse and other birds. In some cases, the female is dominant over the male in breeding behavior, which can result in females that are larger than the males.
Grouse are game, and hunters kill millions each year for food, sport, and other uses. In the United Kingdom, this takes the form of driven grouse shooting. The male black grouse's tail feathers are a traditional ornament for hats in areas such as Scotland and the Alps. Folk dances from the Alps to the North American prairies imitate the displays of lekking males.
Genus Lagopus – ptarmigans
Genus Tetrao – black grouse
Genus Centrocercus – sage grouse
Genus Tympanuchus – prairie grouse
The black grouse or blackgame or blackcock (Tetrao tetrix) is a large game bird in the grouse family. It is a sedentary species, breeding across northern Eurasia in moorland and bog areas near to woodland, mostly boreal. The black grouse is closely related to the Caucasian grouse.
The female is greyish-brown and has a cackling call. She takes all responsibility for nesting and caring for the chicks, as is typical with gamebirds.
The black grouse's genome was sequenced in 2014.Cantabrian capercaillie
The Cantabrian capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus cantabricus) is a subspecies of the western capercaillie in the grouse family Tetraonidae. It is one of two subspecies found in Spain.Centrocercus
The sage-grouse are the two species in the bird genus Centrocercus, C. minimus and Centrocercus urophasianus. They are distributed throughout large portions of the north-central and Western United States, as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. C. minimus is classified as endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of NatureMales of C. urophasianus are the largest grouse from temperate North America, attaining a maximum weight of 7 pounds (3.2 kg). Adults have a long, pointed tail and legs with feathers to the toes. As in most Galliformes, there is pronounced sexual dimorphism.Galliformes
Galliformes is an order of heavy-bodied ground-feeding birds that includes turkey, grouse, chicken, New World quail and Old World quail, ptarmigan, partridge, pheasant, francolin, junglefowl and the Cracidae. The name derives from "gallus", Latin for "cock" or "rooster". Common names are gamefowl or gamebirds, landfowl, gallinaceous birds, or galliforms. "Wildfowl" or just "fowl" are also often used for the Galliformes, but usually these terms also refer to waterfowl (Anseriformes), and occasionally to other commonly hunted birds. This group has about 290 species, one or more of which are found in essentially every part of the world's continents (except for the innermost deserts and perpetual ice). They are rarer on islands, and in contrast to the closely related waterfowl, are essentially absent from oceanic islands—unless introduced there by humans. Several species have been domesticated during their long and extensive relationships with humans.
This order contains five families: Phasianidae (including chicken, quail, partridges, pheasants, turkeys, peafowl and grouse), Odontophoridae (New World quails), Numididae (guineafowl), Cracidae (including chachalacas and curassows), and Megapodiidae (incubator birds like mallee fowl and brush-turkeys). They are important as seed dispersers and predators in the ecosystems they inhabit, and are often reared as game birds by humans for their meat and eggs and for recreational hunting. Many gallinaceous species are skilled runners and escape predators by running rather than flying. Males of most species are more colorful than the females. Males often have elaborate courtship behaviors that include strutting, fluffing of tail or head feathers, and vocal sounds. They are mainly nonmigratory.Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain is one of the North Shore Mountains of the Pacific Ranges in the District Municipality of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. With a maximum elevation of over 1,200 m (4,100 feet) at its peak, the mountain is the site of an alpine ski area, Grouse Mountain Resort, which overlooks Greater Vancouver has four chairlifts servicing 33 runs. In the summer, Grouse Mountain Resort features lumberjack shows, the "Birds in Motion" birds of prey demonstration, a scenic chairlift ride, disc golf, mountain biking, zip lining, tandem paragliding, helicopter tours, and guided ecowalks. Year-round operations include a 100-seat mountaintop theatre and a wildlife refuge. The mountain operates two aerial tramways, know officially as the Skyride. The Blue Skyride is used mainly for freight transportation, while public access to the mountain top is provided by the Swiss-built Garaventa Red Skyride, which has a maximum capacity of 101 passengers (96 in summer). Summer access is also provided by the 2.9 kilometre Grouse Grind hiking trail, which is open for hiking from May to October.Hazel grouse
The hazel grouse (Tetrastes bonasia), sometimes called the hazel hen, is one of the smaller members of the grouse family of birds. It is a sedentary species, breeding across northern Eurasia as far east as Hokkaido, and as far west as central and eastern Europe, in dense, damp, mixed coniferous woodland, preferably with some spruce.Junglefowl
Junglefowl are the four living species of bird from the genus Gallus in the bird order Galliformes, which occur in India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia.
These are large birds, with colourful male plumage, but are nevertheless difficult to see in the dense vegetation they inhabit.
As with many birds in the pheasant family, the male takes no part in the incubation of the egg or rearing of the precocial young. These duties are performed by the drab and well-camouflaged female.
The junglefowl are seed-eaters, but insects are also taken, particularly by the young birds.
One of the species in this genus, the red junglefowl, is of historical importance as the likely ancestor of the domesticated chicken, although the grey junglefowl has been suggested to be also involved.The Sri Lankan junglefowl is the national bird of Sri Lanka.Partridge
Partridges are medium-sized non-migratory gamebirds, with a wide native distribution throughout the Old World, including Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa. They are sometimes grouped in the Perdicinae subfamily of the Phasianidae (pheasants, quail, etc.). However, molecular research suggests that partridges are not a distinct taxon within the family Phasianidae, but that some species are closer to the pheasants, while others are closer to the junglefowl.Peafowl
The peacock include three species of birds in the genera Pavo and Afropavo of the Phasianidae family, the pheasants and their allies. The two Asiatic species are the blue or Indian peafowl originally of the Indian subcontinent, and the green peafowl of Southeast Asia; the one African species is the Congo peafowl, native only to the Congo Basin. Male peafowl are known for their piercing calls and their extravagant plumage. The latter is especially prominent in the Asiatic species, which have an eye-spotted "tail" or "train" of covert feathers, which they display as part of a courtship ritual. The term peacock is properly reserved for the male; the female is known as a peahen, and the immature offspring are sometimes called peachicks.The functions of the elaborate iridescent colouration and large "train" of peacocks have been the subject of extensive scientific debate. Charles Darwin suggested they served to attract females, and the showy features of the males had evolved by sexual selection. More recently, Amotz Zahavi proposed in his handicap theory that these features acted as honest signals of the males' fitness, since less-fit males would be disadvantaged by the difficulty of surviving with such large and conspicuous structures.Phasianidae
The Phasianidae are a family of heavy, ground-living birds, which includes pheasants, partridges, junglefowl, chickens, turkeys, Old World quail, and peafowl. The family includes many of the most popular gamebirds. The family is a large one, and is occasionally broken up into two subfamilies, the Phasianinae, and the Perdicinae. Sometimes, additional families and birds are treated as part of this family. For example, the American Ornithologists' Union includes the Tetraonidae (grouse), Numididae (guineafowl), and Meleagrididae (turkeys) as subfamilies in Phasianidae.Pheasant
Pheasants () are birds of several genera within the subfamily Phasianinae, of the family Phasianidae in the order Galliformes. The family's native range is restricted to Asia.
Pheasants are characterised by strong sexual dimorphism, males being highly decorated with bright colors and adornments such as wattles. Males are usually larger than females and have longer tails. Males play no part in rearing the young.
Pheasants typically eat seeds and some insects.
The best-known is the common pheasant, which is widespread throughout the world, in introduced feral populations and in farm operations. Various other pheasant species are popular in aviaries, such as the golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus).Red grouse
The red grouse, Lagopus lagopus scotica, is a medium-sized bird of the grouse family which is found in heather moorland in Great Britain and Ireland. It is usually classified as a subspecies of the willow ptarmigan but is sometimes considered to be a separate species, Lagopus scotica. It is also known as the moorcock, moorfowl or moorbird. Lagopus is derived from Ancient Greek lagos (λαγος), meaning "hare", + pous (πους), "foot", in reference to the feathered feet and toes typical of this cold-adapted genus, and scoticus is "of Scotland".The red grouse is widely known as the logo of The Famous Grouse whisky and an animated bird is a character in a series of its adverts. The red grouse is also the emblem of the journal British Birds.Rock ptarmigan
The rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) is a medium-sized gamebird in the grouse family. It is known simply as the ptarmigan in the UK and in Canada, where it is the official bird for the territory of Nunavut, Canada, and the official game bird for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. In Japan, it is known as the raichō (雷鳥), which means "thunder bird". It is the official bird of Gifu, Nagano, and Toyama Prefectures and is a protected species nationwide.Ruffed grouse
The ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is a medium-sized grouse occurring in forests from the Appalachian Mountains across Canada to Alaska. It is non-migratory. It is the only species in the genus Bonasa.
The ruffed grouse is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a "partridge", an unrelated phasianid, and occasionally confused with the grey partridge, a bird of open areas rather than woodlands.The ruffed grouse is the state bird of Pennsylvania, United States.Sandgrouse
Sandgrouse is the common name for Pteroclidae, a family of sixteen species of bird, members of the order Pterocliformes. They are traditionally placed in two genera. The two central Asian species are classified as Syrrhaptes and the other fourteen species, from Africa and Asia, are placed in the genus Pterocles. They are ground dwelling birds restricted to treeless, open country, such as plains, savannahs and semi-deserts. They are distributed across northern, southern and eastern Africa, Madagascar, the Middle East and India through to central Asia. The ranges of the black-bellied sandgrouse and the pin-tailed sandgrouse extend into the Iberian Peninsula and France, and Pallas's sandgrouse occasionally breaks out in large numbers from its normal range in Asia.Sharp-tailed grouse
The sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus) (previously: Tetrao phasianellus) is a medium-sized prairie grouse. It is also known as the sharptail, and is known as fire grouse or fire bird by Native American Indians due to their reliance on brush fires to keep their habitat open.
The Sharp-Tailed Grouse is the provincial bird of Saskatchewan.Spruce grouse
The spruce grouse or Canada grouse (Falcipennis canadensis) is a medium-sized grouse closely associated with the coniferous boreal forests or taiga of North America. It is one of the most arboreal grouse, fairly well adapted to perching and moving about in trees. When approached by a predator, it relies on camouflage and immobility to an amazing degree, for example letting people come to within a few feet before finally taking flight, a behavior that has earned it the nickname "fool's hen".Western capercaillie
The western capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), also known as the wood grouse, heather cock, or just capercaillie , is the largest member of the grouse family. The largest known specimen, recorded in captivity, had a weight of 7.2 kg (16 lb). The species shows extreme sexual dimorphism, with the male twice the size of the female. Found across Eurasia, this ground-living forest bird is renowned for its mating display. The worldwide population is categorised as "Least concern" by the IUCN.Willow ptarmigan
The willow ptarmigan () (Lagopus lagopus) is a bird in the grouse subfamily Tetraoninae of the pheasant family Phasianidae. It is also known as the willow grouse and in Ireland and Britain, where it was previously considered to be a separate species, as the red grouse. It is a sedentary species, breeding in birch and other forests and moorlands in northern Europe, the tundra of Scandinavia, Siberia, Alaska and northern Canada, in particular in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the state bird of Alaska. In the summer the birds are largely brown, with dappled plumage, but in the winter they are white with some black feathers in their tails (British populations do not adopt a winter plumage). The species has remained little changed from the bird that roamed the tundra during the Pleistocene. Nesting takes place in the spring when clutches of four to ten eggs are laid in a scrape on the ground. The chicks are precocial and soon leave the nest and while they are young, both parents play a part in caring for them. The chicks eat insects and young plant growth while the adults are completely herbivorous, eating leaves, flowers, buds, seeds and berries during the summer and largely subsisting on the buds and twigs of willow and other dwarf shrubs and trees during the winter.