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Hybridization between Dusky Grouse and Sharp-tailed Grouse

December 1, 2015

Cache County, Utah, 7 April 2013: rare hybrid combination of grouse noted. Hybridization between Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus) and Sharp-tailed Grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus) has been rarely documented in the wild. The only published record was of one collected from Osoyoos, British Columbia, in 1906 (Brooks 1907, Lincoln 1950). There is also one record of this hybrid in captivity (McCarthy 2006)...Although hybridization within genera is more common than between genera, it is perhaps not all too remarkable that these species would hybridize, given that Dendragapus and Tympanuchus are each other’s closest relatives (Drovetski 2002). The ranges of these two species overlap over a broad area ranging roughly from parts of northern Utah and Colorado to Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Given the close relatedness and extent of overlap of their ranges, it is perhaps surprising that there have not been more reports of this hybrid combination in the over-100 years since Brooks (1907) first described one. The species may be segregated by habitat use, as Sharp-tailed prefer open grassland sites for lekking and shrub areas for nesting, and Dusky are often found in more densely forested conifer stands—although Dusky often use more open habitats in the spring.

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