Dusky Grouse
(Dendragapus obscurus)


Picture of bird
© Marcel Gahbauer
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Dusky Grouse is widely distributed throughout the interior of British Columbia, Yukon and the mountains of Alberta where it inhabits open coniferous forests, with some populations breeding in grasslands and shrubsteppe. Along with the Sooty Grouse, the Dusky Grouse was formerly considered to be a subspecies of the Blue Grouse, but both were split from that species in 2006 (Banks et al. 2006). There is little information on the population status of Dusky Grouse in Canada. Limited data from the Breeding Bird Survey suggest there has been little overall change in the population relative to the early 1970s. However, the results have poor precision and include data from birds in the United States, so the reliability of this assessment is considered low. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLittle ChangeLowAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada50,000 - 500,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence


Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

The Dusky Grouse is hunted throughout its range (Zwickel and Bendell 2018). Most birds are altitudinal migrants, moving from more open, low elevation breeding areas to more dense coniferous forest at higher elevations (Campbell et al. 1990, Zwickel and Bendell 2018). Conversely, more northern birds breed almost exclusively in alpine/subalpine zones and migrate to lower elevation, montane, or subalpine forest in the winter (Campbell et al. 1990, Zwickel and Bendell 2018). So, despite being essentially resident birds, Dusky Grouse rely on different forest types over the course of the year. Though logging and grazing have been proposed as potential conservation issues, their effects on grouse populations remain largely unknown (Zwickel and Bendell 2018).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation
Northern RockiesNorthern Rockies, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation
Northwestern Interior ForestNorthwestern Interior Forest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other