The sooty grouse is the third largest grouse in North America. Their feathers are brown, grey, white, and black in color. Males have gray tails and underparts, and females are speckled with brown. While it is difficult to see sooty grouse in the thick coniferous forests they call home, the booming hoots of the males in spring give their presence away. Displaying males have a large bare red patch of skin on their neck. This patch is skirted by white feathers and is a good way to identify males during the breeding season.
Sooty grouse forage for buds and needles while up in the branches of trees or down on the forest floor. These grouse will also eat insects on occasion.