For more information on species & ecosystem science:

Wildlife Science

Fish Science

Habitat Science


Grouse Ecology


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  A male Attwater’s prairie-chicken is displaying to a female on the coastal prairie of Texas. Both of these birds were raised in captivity before being released in the wild. Experience has shown that it is much less expensive to manage grouse populations before their populations are at risk of extinction.

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  Sharp-tailed grouse (left) and greater sage-grouse (right) are considered ‘threatened’ in the state of Washington.

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  There are four species of forest grouse legally harvested in Washington. These include: spruce grouse (top left), ruffed grouse (top right), dusky grouse (bottom right), and sooty grouse (bottom left). The dusky and sooty grouse were formerly considered ‘blue grouse’.

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  White-tailed ptarmigan live in alpine habitat at high elevations in Washington. The ptarmigan is the only grouse species in Washington that is monogamous.

Grouse are iconic symbols of our native landscapes. They are part of the cultural heritage of Native Americans who emulated grouse breeding rituals in traditional dances and incorporated grouse feathers in clothing. These birds were an important food source for Native Americans as well as early pioneers and are still regarded as prized game birds by millions of hunters. In recent years, the public is increasingly interested in viewing the elaborate and spectacular courtship displays of the many species of native grouse.

One of the earliest laws to manage wildlife populations in North America was enacted in 1791 to protect the heath hen (an eastern prairie grouse) from excessive market hunting. However, efforts to save the heath hen ultimately failed in 1932 when the last bird disappeared from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Today, the Attwater’s prairie-chicken in Texas is on the brink of extinction, a reminder of the fate of the heath hen. Other grouse species are experiencing significant declines and face an uncertain future. These declines are associated with numerous factors including the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of native habitats.

Grouse depend on high quality habitats distributed across broad landscapes. Because the landscapes used by grouse are among the most ecologically imperiled, addressing the management needs of grouse also benefits assemblages of wildlife dependent on similar habitats. Grouse are dependent on both publicly- and privately-owned land in both the United States and Canada. Regardless of ownership, habitat quality largely is determined by privately driven activities including agriculture, grazing, mining, logging, and recreation. Therefore, successful efforts to manage and conserve North American grouse must be integrated with the needs of individuals and groups that depend on the land’s resources.


Selected Publications


All photos unless otherwise indicated are courtesy of Michael A. Schroeder