Springtime in Southcentral Alaska means breeding season for spruce grouse.
Male spruce grouse, identified easily by their black- and white-trimmed throats and chests topped with scarlet eye combs, get dandied up in April and May to court hens. Although they’re not formal lekers, males can often be found concentrated in relatively small areas during breeding season. One can often be seen defending a territory within easy sight of other males doing the same.
Hens are drawn by males that put on displays that include flying into trees and landing briefly before thundering to the ground with their bodies in a vertical position. The behavior seems to be a form of drumming.
Once hens appear, males strut, fan their tails, and raise their eye combs to get attention. Males become very aggressive this time of year, and defensive of their territories. They will sometimes try to chase humans and have been known to beat hikers’ faces with their wings!