CRITTER WATCH: Something to grouse about

SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2007

April is no time to grouse around if you’re a grouse.

Sharptails are dancing and sage grouse are booming on the prairies of Idaho, Montana and Washington. Ruffed grouse are drumming and spruce grouse are swooping.

The interior “dusky” blue grouse shown here was a “hoot” to photograph, said Spokane wildlife photographer Tom Munson.

Alerted by another birder that the male grouse was claiming its territory near a ridgeline sparsely timbered with ponderosa pines, Munson and friends drove to Douglas County and found the bird in the second place they looked.

“He was strutting and hooting and putting on a great show,” Munson said. “When the eye patches are extended they change from red to yellow.”

Blue grouse, unlike their “fool hen” cousins the spruce grouse, generally are wary and hard to approach. The exceptions are males during mating season and hens after their chicks are hatched in summer.

Hikers who see a blue grouse pretending to stumble around at close range in the forest can bet there are little chicks nearby.

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