Ruffed Grouse

Scientific Name: Bonassa umbellus

What do ruffed grouse look like? Grouse come in two different color phases- red and gray. The grouse found in the Border Country are mostly gray. Their tail feathers have a black stripe at the end of the feathers with gray tips. They have black feathers along the sides of their necks which they can ruff out and a small crest on their head. Grouse are well camouflaged. This means that their coloring blends into the surroundings making it difficult to see them in the woods. Grouse are about the same size as chickens (about 17 inches long).


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What types of sounds do ruffed grouse make? They do make any loud calls but mother grouse will murmur to her chicks and grouse will also chirp when startled. The males perform a wing “song” called drumming which sounds like a motor starting up from way off in the distance. They do this by flapping their wings. The males drum to attract females and also to defend their territory from other males.

 

What do grouse like to eat? Ruffed grouse eat leaves, buds, and flowers of trees such as quaking aspen, birch, and black cherry trees.

Where do grouse live? Ruffed grouse live in deciduous forests. These forests contain trees that have leaves which bud in the spring, flower in the summer and drop off in the fall. Grouse are found throughout the Border Country as well as in Alaska, Canada, parts of the Rocky Mountains and in the Appalachian mountains.

Where do grouse like to nest? Female grouse will select a nest site that is ideally next to an aspen tree and has a clear view of the surrounding area. It is important for the mother grouse to be able to see any predators that might be snooping around. She prefers to be near an aspen tree so that there is a convenient food supply that is not too far from the nest.Grouse have between 9-12 buff colored eggs. The young need the protection of bushes and ground covering to keep them hidden from predators.


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Where do grouse nest in the winter? Grouse bury themselves deep into the snow down long burrows to stay warm and also to confuse predators. The snow is a good insulator that keeps them out of the wind and cold. It can be -30 degrees Farenheit outside and rarely below +20 degrees Farenheit underneath the snow.


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What kinds of animals do grouse have to watch out for? It is not an easy life being a ruffed grouse. They have to be on guard at all times because there are lots of hungry animals that would enjoy catching a plump grouse. Wolves, pine martens, and foxes are all predators of grouse. Grouse also have to be careful of human hunters in the fall.

Sources Farrand, J. Jr. 1988. An Audobon Handbook: Eastern Birds. McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York. Stensaas, M. 1993. Canoe country wildlife: a field guide to the North Woods and Boundary Waters. Pfeifer- Hamilton, Duluth, MN. Udvardy, M.D.F. 1977. The Audobon Society field guide to North American birds: Western region. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

 

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