Grouse are primarily ground-dwelling birds, though they can fly short distances. Their legs, toes, and nostrils are feathered, making them adapted to living in colder climates than most birds.

A female ruffed grouse stands in the snow. She is brown with some dark and light markings throughout the plumage.

Types of Grouse

Blue Grouse

Blue grouse

Features: Blue grouse are large in comparison to most other grouse species. The females are mottled brown, tan, and gray. The males are similar, but with solid blue-gray on the underside and bright orange-yellow combs over the eyes.

Habitat: Blue grouse occupy the coniferous forests of western Oregon, the eastern slopes of the Cascades, the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon, and the Klamath Basin and south Warner Mountains. Preferred habitat includes timber edges, open timbered slopes, mountain meadows adjacent to springs or other sources of water, and near berry producing areas such as chokecherry thickets.

Technique: Effective hunting techniques involve walking ridges and the edges of timber patches. While generally a forestland species, blue grouse may sometimes be found on open slopes near timber if there is food (like grasshoppers) that attracts them. Morning and evening hours are usually best as blue grouse often tend to loaf high off the ground in trees during midday.

A sharp-tailed grouse bends forward with wings out and tail erect

Columbian sharp-tailed grouse

Features: Columbian sharp-tailed grouse are brown-gray with small black and white markings, a white underside, and a short tail that is white at the base. They are a medium-sized grouse. Both the males and females have a yellow-orange comb over each eye.

Habitat: Columbian sharp-tailed grouse were historically found in most counties of eastern Oregon. These birds preferred the bunchgrass prairies interspersed with stream bottoms containing deciduous shrubs and trees. This habitat was particularly common in north-central Oregon and the Columbia Basin.

Technique: In 1929, Oregon closed its hunting season for sharp-tailed grouse and it has never re-opened. By the late 1960s sharp-tailed grouse were believed to have been extirpated from Oregon. Now there is a small population of reintroduced Columbian sharp-tailed grouse and efforts continue to bring this native bird back to the state.

A female ruffed grouse stands in the snow. She is brown with some dark and light markings throughout the plumage.

Ruffed grouse

Features: Both the male and female are gray or reddish-brown on the body with dark bars and spots throughout. They have variable tail colors but always have a black band near the tip.

Habitat: Ruffed grouse are most commonly found in brushy riparian areas in eastern Oregon and in early-aged mixed woodlands in western Oregon, though birds may be found in pockets of good habitat nearly anywhere.

Technique: The ruffed grouse is a bird of the edge, so look in edges of meadows, clearcuts, and where brushy growth meets timber. In September, when most ruffed grouse hunting takes place in Oregon, ruffs are generally pretty close to water or sources of food like bearberry and huckleberry.

Spruce grouse

Spruce grouse

Features: Spruce grouse are gray with white spots on the belly. The back feathers often have dark bars. Females tend to be paler in color than the males. The eyes are outlined by red combs over and white arcs underneath. 

Habitat: The spruce grouse is native to Oregon and found in coniferous forests across northern North America. However, Oregon is on the periphery of this species' range and they likely were never abundant in the state. Currently, spruce grouse can only be found in the Wallowa Mountains and Snake River divide of northeastern Oregon.

Technique: Spruce grouse have been protected in Oregon for more than 45 years, with no open hunting season. In recent years, the Department has been seeking help from the public to report observations of spruce grouse they encounter. These observations, along with those reported by state and federal biologists, are being used to map the current distribution of this species in the state.