Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Larry Dalton and Laura Romin
Photo Copyright Larry Dalton and Laura Romin

The blue grouse, Dendragapus obscurus is also known as the dusky grouse, pine hen, pine grouse, and fool hen.

The male is about 21 inches long and may weigh up to 3.5 pounds. He is dark gray to blackish above with mottled brown on the wings. The underparts are pale bluish-gray marked with white on the sides of the neck and flanks. The tail is dark gray with a broad light gray terminal band. During mating season, the male develops an orange comb over the eye and reddish-purple air sacs on the sides of the neck.

The female is about 18 inches long and lacks the orange comb and air sacs.

Open stands of conifer or aspen with an understory of brush are preferred habitat. Winters are spent in dense fir trees, usually at higher elevations. In spring, birds move to lower meadow, brush, or open timber stands for mating. After breeding some males move back to higher elevations. Others wait until late summer or fall and gradually return to higher elevations with the hens and young.

Mating occurs in April. During courtship, the male displays before the female with wings extended and tail fanned and raised. Nesting is in May and June. The nest is a shallow depression, usually at the base of a small tree or shrub, lined with dry leaves and grass. The female lays from seven to 10 cream-colored, finely spotted eggs. The incubation period is 24 days.

Summer food consists of green vegetation, seeds, buds, berries, and insects. The winter diet is primarily the needles and buds of fir trees.

Blue grouse are found in most mountainous areas of the state; however, the greatest densities occur in the northern Wasatch range. Unlike other native grouse habitat in Utah, no major reduction in blue grouse range has occurred since historical times. Annual population fluctuations are primarily the result of seasonal weather patterns. Cool wet springs, dry summers, and harsh winters depress blue grouse production. The blue grouse is native to Utah.


  • Text modified from: Rawley, E. V., W. J. Bailey, D. L. Mitchell, J. Roberson, and J. Leatham. 1996. Utah upland game. Publication number 63-12. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Salt Lake City.