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common name for a game bird of the colder parts of the Northern Hemisphere. There are about 18 species. Grouse are henlike terrestrial birds, protectively plumaged in shades of red, brown, and gray. The nostrils are entirely hidden by feathers, and the legs are partially or completely feathered.

The most common eastern American grouse is the ruffed grouse (sometimes miscalled partridge or pheasant), Bonasa umbellus, a forest bird noted for the drumming sound made by the male during its elaborate courtship dance. The ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus), or snow grouse, is an arctic species that migrates to the NW United States in winter, when its plumage changes from rusty brown to white, matching the snow. Western American grouse include the prairie chicken, Tympanuchus cupido, once common in the East, and the sage grouse, Centrocercus urophasianus. The latter, called also sage hen, sage cock, or cock of the plains, is the largest American grouse (25–30 in./62.5–70 cm long) and so named because its flesh tastes strongly of sage—the result of feeding on sagebrush buds. The males of both these species are distinguished by yellow air sacs on the neck that inflate to an enormous size during courtship. European species include the capercaillie, the largest grouse (roughly the size of turkey), and the black grouse. The red grouse is found in Great Britain.

Striking fluctuations in the abundance of all grouse species occur in intervals of 7 to 10 years. A combination of factors, rather than a single explanation, appears to be the cause for this not entirely understood phenomenon. Fortunately, grouse have high reproductive rates, which enable them to restore their populations after a low-level period.

Grouse are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Galliformes, family Tetraonidae.


(vertebrate zoology)
Any of a number of game birds in the family Tetraonidae having a plump body and strong, feathered legs.


any gallinaceous bird of the family Tetraonidae, occurring mainly in the N hemisphere, having a stocky body and feathered legs and feet. They are popular game birds
References in periodicals archive ?
Nest site characteristics and spring-summer movements of migratory sage grouse in southeastern Idaho.
A good winter range provides sage grouse with reliable access to sagebrush under all snow conditions.
In January 2000 American Lands and partners filed a petition to list the Gunnison sage grouse (Centrocercus minimus), a newly described species of sage grouse that lives in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah, as endangered under the ESA.
The prospect of listing high profile, widely distributed species like sage grouse has generated an array of responses from agency representatives and other observers, some privately calling sage grouse a savior for the BLM, others publicly describing a doomsday scenario.
The media has seized upon such statements, dubbing sage grouse "the spotted owl of the desert" and reporting in hundreds of articles on the potential local, regional, and West-wide impacts of listing sage grouse under the ESA.
Whether these plans result in real protection for sage grouse is yet to be seen.
The sage grouse is a widely ranged, sparsely distributed species that lives in the vast "Sagebrush Sea" in the western US and Canada.
Settlement of the West exacted a heavy toll on sagebrush habitat, and in turn, sage grouse populations that declined in the face of human development.