Ruffed Grouse
Description  16 - 19"  A brown or
gray-brown, chicken-like bird with slight
crest, fan-shaped, black-banded tail,
barred flanks, and black "ruffs" on sides
of neck.

A white eye-line, small crest on top of the
head, and a short, curved bill are other
distinguishing characteristics.

Habitat  Deciduous and mixed forests,
especially those with scattered clearings
and dense undergrowth; overgrown
pastures.

They are most often found near black
cottonwood, bigleaf maple, vine maple,
and Sitka spruce.  The quaking aspen is
the most important tree species for
Ruffed Grouse.

Diet  Ruffed Grouse forage on the
ground and in shrubs and trees. They are
omnivores, although they feed mostly on
plant material.

In the winter, they eat the buds of
deciduous trees, especially in areas
where it snows. The large buds of aspen
trees are an important winter food source.

They also eat fruits, berries, twigs, leaves,
catkins, and seeds. In the summer, they
eat insects, spiders, snails, small
snakes, and frogs. Young Ruffed Grouse
eat mostly insects.

Nesting  One male may mate with
several females and does not participate
in caring for the young.  Males carry out
their courtship display on a fallen log,
puffing out their feathers, fanning their
tails, and showing their ruffs while
drumming the air with their wings.

The drumming can be heard from far
away, each drum roll starting out slowly
and quickly picking up speed.

The female builds a nest on the ground in
dense cover, usually next to a log, rock, or
at the base of a tree or shrub. The nest is
a depression lined with leaves, grass,
needles, and some feathers.

The female lays and incubates 9-12
pinkish-buff eggs, plain or spotted with
dull brown. The well-camouflaged young
leave the nest shortly after hatching. The
female leads them to feeding sites where
the young feed themselves.

Range  Resident from tree line in
Alaska and northern Canada south to
California, Wyoming, Minnesota,
Missouri, and Carolinas, and in
Appalachians to Georgia.

Ruffed Grouse are generally permanent
residents in their range, although they will
make short, seasonal movements to
areas with more dense cover in the winter.
Voice  Female gives soft hen-like
clucks. In spring displaying male sits on
a log and beats the air with his wings,
creating a drumming sound that
increases rapidly in tempo.

Discussion  This secretive grouse is
easy to find in winter
, when snow covers
the ground and the birds
fly up into the
treetops to feed on buds and catkins
. The
summer diet, much more varied, consists
of insects, seeds, fruits, and even an
occasional small snake or frog.

Long one of the most highly esteemed
game birds in North America, the Ruffed
Grouse can withstand hunting pressure
as long as suitable habitat exists.

But in many areas forests are maturing,
eliminating the undergrowth this species
needs; where this is happening,
reintroduced Wild Turkeys are increasing
and the grouse are decreasing.
Not a great picture, but this profile shows the beautiful speckled body plumage.
December 2005
December 2005
The State Bird of Pennsylvania