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NatureSpeak Articles

Blue Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus)

If you’re wearing red ski boots and standing on top of the Dave Murray Downhill Run, watch out for the Blue Grouse infamous for pecking at bright boots. This confused bird apparently can’t tell the difference between red plastic and something edible. Perhaps it equates the colour red with a favourite food of Grouse in Whistler, highbush cranberries (Viburnum edule).

Many people have been seeing Grouses calmly foraging for food this winter in the middle of ski runs on both mountains. The obliviousness of the birds to skiers whizzing past doesn’t seem like a good, long-term survival strategy, but so far it hasn’t noticeably reduced the abundance of Grouse in Whistler.

In winter, Blue Grouses feed primarily on conifer needles and buds (which are plentiful at higher elevations and on ski runs). They do fly, but mostly only short distances. In the summer it is much harder to see a Grouse than to hear it. The sounds made by a male are unmistakable: a series of whomp, whomp, whomp sounds which progressively increase in volume and speed.

If you are lucky enough, you will also see the male spread its tail feathers over its back and neck to reveal a bright, orange-yellow patch. The colouring of the Blue Grouse contributes to its name. The male is bluish-grey with mottled wings and a black tail striped with grey. Females are a mottled brown and grey and have a dark tail tipped with grey. These colours provide near perfect camouflage in the summer forests.

To report new sightings, e-mail Leigh Edwards.

Upcoming Events:

March 31 – Birds in watercolours. Isobel MacLaurin is offering another great introductory class in nature art. Supplies included. $2 for Naturalist Society members only. Please call Mitch Sulkers to register.

April 1 – Monthly Bird Walk. Meet at the base of Lorimer Road at 7 a.m. (please note earlier time!). Contact Michael Thompson for more information.

Written by: Leigh Edwards


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