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Regional Phenotypic Variation in the Sooty Grouse

Category: Wildlife Research and Management - Wildlife Research

Date Published:  2009

Number of Pages: 6

Author(s): Michael A. Schroeder, Steven C. Heinl, Andrew W. Piston and Fred C. Zwickel

Long united as a single species under the name Blue Grouse, the more coastal Sooty Grouse (Dendragapus fuliginosus) and the more inland Dusky Grouse (D. obscurus) have received substantial attention in recent years. Zwickel and Bendell (2004) addressed the biology and natural history of these birds, specifying their regional variation. Coastal males have yellow cervical apteria (unfeathered skin on the sides of the neck; see this issue’s inside front cover) and a black tail with a contrasting gray terminal band, while most interior males have red cervical apteria (see this issue’s back cover) and the tail band, if any, much less distinct. In addition, the song of male Sooty Grouse is much louder than that of the Dusky Grouse. Barrowclough et al. (2004) concluded from a molecular study that two species exist. Subsequently, “on the basis of genetic evidence (Barrowclough et al. 2004) and differences in voice (hooting), behavior, and plumage (Brooks 1929)” Banks et al. (2006:929) accepted reclassification of these birds as two species. Through history, the birds’ classification, as followed by the American Ornithologists’ Union, has oscillated from a single species (1886, 1895, 1910) to two species (1931), back to one species (1944, 1957, 1983, 1998), and back to two species (Banks et al. 2006).

Suggested Citation:
Schroeder, M. A., S. C. Heinl, A. W. Piston, and F. C. Zwickel. 2009. Regional phenotypic variation in the sooty grouse. Western Birds 40:152-154.