Back in January and early February, I saw a Ruffed Grouse in my yard a number of times. I spent some time reading up on the grouse, which is also sometimes called a "partridge". Here's just some of the interesting stuff I read about the Ruffed Grouse.
They have a plump, mottled body with a smallish head that has a bit of a crest. Their long, squared-off tail has broad, dark bands and a white tip. There are two morphs: grey morphs are found mostly in the north and red morphs are found mainly south. They are 17" long, have a wingspan of 22", and weigh about 1.3 pounds.
In winter, scales grow out along the sides of the grouse's toes giving them temporary snowshoes. (Budliger/Kennedy)
Ted Floyd comments that the Ruffed Grouse "almost never wanders away from the woods". They are generally solitary and shy, though in winter, they may gather in small groups of 4-5 individuals to feed and roost together. At night, they roost in conifers, in stands of tightly packed saplings, or beneath snow cover. (Dunne)
Though capable of flight, they are most often seen moving about by foot.
They glean the ground and on vegetation to feed. Their omnivorous diet includes seeds, buds, flowers, berries, catkins, leaves, insects, spiders, and snails. (Dunne) Their diet varies with the season; fruits and berries in summer and fall, then switching to tree buds in winter, especially in the north when the ground is snow-covered. (Kaufmann)
When I've seen Ruffed Grouse in my yard, they are always in or very close to woodland cover. I enjoyed watching the bird pictured walk out along tree branches that I thought were too small to support it.
It would walk out as far as possible, then turn and walk back. It would almost jump rather than fly to the next branch. These pictures were taken in cherry trees and sumacs, and the grouse was enjoying the buds on the cherry trees and the fruit on the sumacs.
THE GROUSE IN NEW YORK STATE
Ruffed Grouse are fairly common year-round residents, breeding in April - June. They are the most common and widespread grouse in the state. (Budliger/Kennedy)
New York trends (as well as nationwide and regionally) show significant declines in Ruffed Grouse populations from 1966 - 2005. Substantially fewer grouse were recorded (during the second atlas survey) and gaps are apparent. The North American Bird Conservation Initiative has listed the grouse as a species of conservation concern in New York. Population can be restored through proper forest harvest and management, including proper clearing. (McGowan/Corwin)
- Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Ted Floyd
- Birds of New York State, Bob Budliger and Gregory Kennedy
- Lives of North American Birds, Kenn Kaufman
- Essential Field Guide Companion, Pete Dunne
- The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State, Kevin McGowan and Kimberley Corwin
Read more about the Ruffed Grouse on rightbird, WBU's online field guide.
This post was submitted to Bird Photography Weekly #26.