Spruce Grouse

The Spruce Grouse is a forest dwelling bird that dwells in coniferous forests throughout the northern regions of North America. Recent evidence suggests that the spruce grouse is declining across its range in New York State. A better understanding of the habitat that this species relies on is necessary to prevent future declines as forests in this region change over time.

Spruce Grouse Distribution, Movements, and Habitat Selection: A Mid-Successional Species in an Aging Landscape

Summary: In this study, I examined the influence of habitat structure and composition on the distribution and movements of spruce grouse. I surveyed previously occupied (n = 30) and potentially occupied (n = 25) lowland coniferous forest patches for spruce grouse throughout the northern Adirondack Park Region. Grouse were observed at approximately half (n = 13) of the sites occupied from the period of 1976-1987 and at one new site. Greater amounts of black spruce (Picea mariana) scrub/shrub vegetation were found within home ranges ( = 21.9 %) versus random conifer patches ( = 3.5 %) (p = 0.001). Stand characteristics at spruce grouse sites with persistent versus extirpated populations consisted of significantly younger ( = 45 versus 53 years respectively, p < 0.001) and shorter trees ( = 11.2 versus 12.5 m, p < 0.005), more live foliage cover in the 0.2-1.0 m range of the vertical strata ( = 59.7 versus 36.3 %, p < 0.001) and more coniferous ( = 30.4 versus 18.7 %, p < 0.001) shrub cover, but less balsam fir (Abies balsamea) shrub cover ( = 3.8 versus 11.6 %, p < 0.001) than extirpated sites. Occupied conifer patches were closer to other occupied patches than extirpated patches were to occupied patches. Findings support the ideas that (1) successional changes in the lowland boreal forest as well as (2) spatial arrangement of these patches in New York may influence spruce grouse site occupancy.

Location: Northern New York

Timeline: 2002-2006 and ongoing

Principal investigators:
Angelena Ross (NYSDEC), Glenn Johnson (SUNY Potsdam), and James P. Gibbs, SUNY-ESF, Syracuse, New York, USA

New York State Dept. Environmental Conservation

James P. Gibbs, SUNY-ESF, Syracuse, NY 13210 USA, jpgibbs@esf.edu, 315/470-6764