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Spruce Grouse Recovery Plan

The spruce grouse (Falcipennis canadensis) is listed as an endangered species in New York. Data collected since 1975 indicate that populations in the state are low and declining. In 2002, NYSDEC funded a study to determine reasons for the species' decline. The Spruce Grouse Recovery Plan, (PDF, 4.8 MB) is one product of the study.

Spruce grouse occur in isolated patches of lowland coniferous forests in the northwestern section of the Adirondack Park. The species was once relatively abundant in New York, occurring in at least six counties representing 18 known subpopulations in the northwestern and northcentral Adirondacks. However, since the late 1800s, the population has experienced a gradual and continued decline. In 2006, spruce grouse were known to occur in only three counties, representing 15 discrete subpopulations or sites that are distributed in only the northwestern Adirondacks. Of these 15 occupied sites, only 14 of 32 known occupied sites from 1976-1987 remained occupied. Over the past 20 years, the Adirondack spruce grouse population has experienced a greater than 50% reduction in geographic range.

Habitat Requirements and Limiting Factors

In New York, spruce grouse generally occur in small, isolated populations within lowland coniferous forest dominated by spruce, tamarack and balsam fir. Occupied forest stands are on average, approximately 44-49 years old with a substantial component of coniferous (mainly black spruce) trees and ericaceous shrubs. These habitats support a mosaic of dense shrub cover for foraging, nesting and shelter, interspersed with pockets of sedge and moss ground cover used for courtship and foraging. Live tree foliage in the 0.2-1.0 m range of the vertical strata is also an important habitat component, providing nest concealment and protection for broods. Factors currently limiting spruce grouse populations in New York State include (1) the distance between patches of suitable habitat and the absence of potential movement corridors between these patches, (2) reduction in occupied habitat quality due to natural succession of lowland boreal plant communities, and (3) small population size. Currently, the greatest threat to spruce grouse persistence in New York is the reduction in habitat quantity and quality due to coniferous forest maturation and the spatial distribution of remaining occupied sites and suitable habitat across the landscape.

Recovery Goal

The overall goal of the spruce grouse recovery program is to achieve, protect and maintain self-sustaining populations of the spruce grouse and its essential habitat in New York State, enabling the eventual removal of the species from the New York State endangered species list. The spruce grouse is an historic resident and represents an important and visible animal component of the boreal forest community. Conservation of the spruce grouse and the boreal community in which it thrives is important to conserving New York's biodiversity and unique character. The purpose of this recovery plan is to (1) provide background information on life history, habitat characteristics and population status of the spruce grouse and (2) make management recommendations that will promote the persistence of viable populations of spruce grouse in New York.