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Grouse Identification

Attention Grouse Hunters in northern New York: Be mindful of the presence of state-endangered Spruce Grouse while hunting Ruffed Grouse. Identify your target before you shoot!


The Spruce Grouse is a state-endangered bird related to the Ruffed Grouse. Spruce Grouse tend to occur in forested evergreen wetlands, but may venture into deciduous forests. Spruce Grouse may also be seen along roadsides during the fall. Spruce grouse are similar in size to ruffed grouse, but have slightly different appearances:

(1) Both male and female Spruce Grouse have a chestnut—colored tail band on a blackish tail that contrasts with the Ruffed Grouse’s dark tail band on a brown or gray tail.

(2) Spruce Grouse tend to sit still or fly to a nearby branch when disturbed unless disturbed by dogs, in which case they may fly away.

(3) Male Spruce Grouse appear darker than females and have a red eye comb that can be seen during the breeding season (May).

(4) Female Spruce Grouse are very similar in appearance to Ruffed Grouse in size and coloration. Differences in the tail band are evident between the two species (see photo).


NYSDEC biologists have released Spruce Grouse captured in Canada into areas of their historical distribution to increase genetic variability and help aid population recovery of New York’s population. NYSDEC is planning on releasing additional Spruce Grouse through 2015.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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