Do You Know the Difference Between Ruffed Grouse and Spruce Grouse?

Attention Game Bird Hunters!!

Can you tell the difference between the legally hunted Ruffed Grouse (Partridge) and the Spruce Grouse, for which there is no open season?

Male Ruffed Grouse

Male Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse

Behavior

  • When approached by someone on foot or in a vehicle, the Ruffed Grouse will frequently "perk" their head up like a chicken
  • Commonly flush and take flight when disturbed
  • May also lower head, with neck extended, and run for cover

Physical Characteristics

(Spruce Grouse lack all of these features)

  • Conspicuous broad black band on the tail
  • Black ruff feathers on sides of neck
  • Small feathers pointing up from top of head

Spruce Grouse

Spruce Grouse

Immature Male Spruce Grouse; female is similar, but without red eye patch (inset-Male Spruce Grouse)

Behavior

  • Generally act very tame; may allow a hunter or a slow-moving vehicle to approach to within a few feet
  • Immature Male Spruce Grouse; female is similar, but without red eye patch (inset-Male Spruce Grouse)
  • Will often "crouch" low to the ground when approached
  • When finally ready to move, will often run only a short distance, or fly only to a nearby tree

Physical Characteristics

  • Tail feathers have red-brown tips and lack the broad black band of the Ruffed Grouse
  • Male Spruce Grouse are slate gray and black above characteristic unfeathered red patch of skin above the eye
  • Female Spruce Grouse are gray and brown above and white and brown below; under certain light conditions, they may look similar to the red phase of Ruffed Grouse

Important Facts

  • Currently there is No Open Season on Spruce Grouse in Maine. As in any hunting situation, it is imperative that the hunter be certain of his/her target before discharging a firearm.
  • Spruce Grouse and Ruffed Grouse can and do occur in the same areas of Maine.
  • In certain light conditions, they may look similar.
  • Nearly half a million Ruffed Grouse are harvested here annually.
  • Although the Fish and Wildlife Department does not have a population estimate for Spruce Grouse, we do know that they are far less numerous than Ruffed Grouse -- even considered rare -- in much of Maine.