Blue Grouse Patterns

Blue Grouse Country

We got snow down to the 8000 ft elevation level yesterday and a freeze down to 5000 ft over night. What does this mean for the blue grouse? Blue grouse are interesting critters, in that they migrate in the reverse direction of everything else. They come down to the edges of the pinyon-juniper zone, around 7000’ to 8000’ in elevation. Early in the season look for these birds, especially the broods lower in the drainages and riparian area. (The young are by far the tastiest!)

The adult males seem to start their migration much earlier, just after breeding they seem to start drifting by toward the high country, whereas, the hens and broods seem to spend more time lower down, then begin their movement upward as it starts to cool off and grasses start to cure out. A hard frost kills off the forbs that they are focusing on, and they begin moving to the high country in earnest. Once all the forb leaves have withered and the berries have shrunk and fallen, and the insects are gone, they switch to eating exclusively pine needles. By this time you should be looking for them in the dark timbered areas near the very top of the mountain. Another tip is to look near edges and steep slopes. These are fairly heavy birds and to escape, they like to be able to flap a few times and bail off an edge where they can glide several hundred yards away from danger and safely hide in a dense pine tree.

So, with this first snow and frost look for these birds to be moving higher in elevation. When you find birds, take careful note of the location, habitat (both ground cover and overhead cover), distance to edges, and time of year. There is something these birds like about that spot at that time of year, and year after year you are likely to find them right around that same spot at roughly the same time of year.    Good Hunting!


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