Gobblers Knob

jeff_mcgraw_photography_sooty_grouse
Met a couple female grouse in a highland meadow while hiking in to Gobblers Knob (aptly named trail) and Lake George. After a few minutes of sitting still they lost interest in me and continued foraged for seeds and berries in a patch of wildflowers. A nearby male was hooting from a crooked little hemlock but he never decided to come down. Love these guys and their ptarmigan cousins. Sometimes when they think they are in danger they stop in their tracks and act like rocks… which likely is effective with a predator that tracks movement like a raptor but pretty amusing when they do it in front of you on a trail.

These ladies are Sooty Grouse. Sooty Grouse are a recently defined species of forest-dwelling grouse native to the Cascades and Pacific Coastal Ranges. They are closely related to dusky grouse the two previously considered a single species known as the blue grouse. Clearly our local taxonomists have been hard at work.

Adults have a long rectangular tail that is light gray on the end. Adult males are mainly dark with a yellow throat air sac surrounded by white, and a yellow wattle over the eye during display. Adult females are mottled brown with dark brown and white marks on their underparts. Females lay 5-10 eggs in a scrape lined with pine needles and grass. The nest is usually hidden under a bush, log, rocky overhang, or small tree.