Dusky Grouse male – Francis Peak

Yesterday I made my first journey up Bountiful Canyon on Sky Line Drive and I have to say it took my breath away. The views were incredible, imagine seeing the Great Salt Lake from over 9,000 feet. The flat valley and distant mountains stretching up out before me to the west, south and north. The falls colors were nothing to sneeze at either with the reds of the oaks and the golden colors of the aspens.

Male Dusky Grouse on Sky Line DriveMale Dusky Grouse on Sky Line Drive – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2500, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Near the summit of Francis Peak, elevation 9,560 feet, I spotted this Dusky Grouse on the edge of a gravel road with a steep drop off to the west and I was able to get a few photographs of it before we motioned to a pickup truck coming down from the summit to move forward.

It was great of the pickup driver to stop and allow us to take photos of this lovely upland game bird. It doesn’t happen that often that another driver will stop when they see a bird in the road and photographers with their lenses out the window. I’m grateful that he stopped and chatted with us too after the bird flew away.

Dusky Grouse male up Bountiful CanyonDusky Grouse male near the summit of Francis Peak – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2500, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

This frame was taken just before the grouse took to the air. I caught the bird in flight in the next frame but I clipped the front of the bird’s bill. I am still kicking my own butt for missing (or messing up) that shot.

Dusky Grouse used to be named Blue Grouse and I can understand why when I look at the bird’s coloring. This bird isn’t in breeding plumage, if he were the bright yellow “eyebrow” would be far more noticeable.

Over all I was very impressed with Bountiful Canyon, Sky Line Drive and the whole area which is high up in the Wasatch Mountain range and I can’t wait to go back.


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. What a gorgeous bird. I’ve never seen one and now hope I can, someday. The visual you describe, of the Great Salt Lake from over 9000 feet is inspiring, to say the least.

    • Ingrid, you would love the view of the Great Salt Lake from 9000 feet, I know I did! I hope when you visit Utah you will get to see some Dusky Grouse. Thanks for commenting.

  2. It is good to see the whole bird in these frames! Nice feather detail and color. As I understand, this bird is rather hard to find and does not appear out in the open very often.

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  4. I’ve not heard of the Dusky Grouse before and love these images,I especially like the one when he’s about to fly, it’s a very dynamic image.

  5. These are beautiful photos, Mia, and it was very gracious of the other driver to let you take you take them.

  6. Stunning bird. It’s not too often the Grouse turn on in the birding blogosphere. Thanks for sharing: )

  7. Great photos. I got to see two of these little guys when we were out cutting fire wood here in Pagosa Country Colorado. It was a really exciting as I did not know that we had them here. Thanks for sharing..

  8. I know what you said, damn & blast, I’ve missed that one. That is behind everything, there is a brilliant photo of Grouse, you did it excellently.

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