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The Spruce Grouse is a species of the northern coniferous forests, with a closely related form in the eastern Palearctic. In North America it is a bird typical of the taiga and northern montane coniferous forests. Its generally remote habitat and inconspicuous behavior have, until recently, made it a rare subject of study. Most of what is known of this species is the result of research undertaken in the past 30 years.
The Spruce Grouse shows little morphological variation over its range, particularly among females. Males, however, fall into two distinct plumage and behavioral types: the southwestern subspecies (D. c. franklinii) has rectrices that differ in form and color from those of the northeastern subspecies (D. c. canadensis). Aspects of courtship behavior are also distinct in these two forms.
This grouse is a conifer specialist, feeding on pine (Pinus spp.) or spruce (Picea spp.) needles for much of the year. Populations appear to fluctuate over time, primarily in response to the degree of maturation of postfire regrowth and secondarily to predation pressure. Modern industrial forest exploitation, with its creation of open clear-cuts and subsequent single species plantations, reduces populations locally and often eliminates them entirely.