Ruffed Grouse

Male and female
Grouse; Shoulder-knot Grouse; Partridge; Drumming Grouse; Birch Partridge; Pheasant; Drumming Pheasant; Mountain Pheasant.
Length, 18 inches. Color above, reddish-brown, spotted; below, yellowish, barred with dark. Both crested and ruffed; tail and wings of equal length; tail with I8 broad, blunt feathers, and somewhat double notched, so that it is nearly half-diamond shape when spread; tarsus partly feathered in front.
Lores, cream; crown, variegated black, brown, and yellow; nape more softly blended with gray and reddish-brown; hack and shoulders, cinnamon-rufous, each feather with a broad yellowish-white center stripe, this stripe mottled on both sides with brownish-black; lower back, rump, and upper tail-feathers, tawny-brown mixed with gray, speckled with heart-shaped spots of yellowish-white; tail, warm brown or grayish-ash, crossed with six or seven narrow bands of blackish-brown, the subterminal one much wider, the feathers tipped with whitish; throat, dull ocher; rest of under parts, whitish tinged with pale brown or pale yellow; the breast, narrowly but boldly crossed with traverse bars of burnt umber or sepia, sides and abdomen with large traverse wedge-shaped spots of dusky and brown, under tail-coverts and thigh-feathers faintly marked or immaculate; ruff, purplish-black; wing-coverts, a warm brown or cinnamon with a narrow shaft streak of white; secondaries and primaries, dusky, the former edged and tipped with yellowish-white, the outside webs of latter with a number of elongated spots of yellowish white.
Similar to adult.
On the ground, in thickets, dense underbrush, on the borders or in large woods, alongside of a log or at the base of a large tree; constructed of old leaves, a few feathers, weed stems, grass, and roots.
6 to I5, usually 10 or 12, varying from whitish through cream to a pale brown, usually without spots but sometimes lightly speckled with shades of brown.
Eastern United States from Minnesota, Michigan, southern New York, and southern Vermont south to eastern Kansas, northern Arkansas, Tennessee, and Virginia, and in the Alleghenies to northern Georgia.

The bird called Partridge or Birch Partridge in the North and Pheasant in some of the middle and southern States is really a typical forest Grouse. It is a hardy dweller in rough, cold lands. Dark forests, rocky mountain sides, deep thickets, and sheltered swamps are its favorite hiding places in summer or winter. It likes the dim and silent woods, far from the haunts of man, but will tolerate his presence if only he leave intact the stately trees; it is no lover of open plains and where the woods are destroyed it soon disappears.
Most country boys in the northern United States well remember their first experience in the woods with this brave and hardy bird. No sound of the forest is more startling than the sudden thunderous roar of beating pinions with which it rises, sometimes almost from under foot, scattering the fallen leaves like a little whirlwind, tearing its way through rustling leaves and bending twigs, winning distance and concealment in one breathless instant. A stirring dash, a swirl of leaves and it is gone, leaving the slow, blundering human biped startled and staring with open mouth and fast-beating heart. It is not necessary for this Grouse to rise with such bluster for it can fly and alight as quietly as most birds, but the sudden whir speaks eloquently of fear and is the bird's method of escaping quickly, confounding its enemies, and sounding the alarm to its companions in danger.
Often the swift bird escapes before the startled gunner has fairly caught sight of it.
The four recognized races of -this Grouse-the Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa. umbellus umbellus), the Canada Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa unzbellus togata), the Gray Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus umbelloides), and the Oregon Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbrllus sabini) -- extend the range of the species over much of the wooded regions of the United States and Canada and it is known more widely than most other game birds, but its habits can hardly be said to be so well known, as wherever it is much hunted it becomes extremely shy and suspicious, and some of its ways are, even now, the subject of dispute. Probably no one man has lived long enough to learn all its wiles. Its wildness in settled regions is the more remarkable when we realize that when the first explorers came to this country this Grouse had so little fear of mankind that it would sit on a low limb gazing curiously at the intruder and could be killed with a stick. Only a few years ago in the great untrodden forests of British Columbia I found it similarly unsuspicious. The young when reared artificially from the egg are so tame that they are in danger of being trodden underfoot. Fortunately the bird has so capable a brain that a brief experience with the " man behind the gun " serves to " educate " it and if it survives its first few experiences with flying shot it becomes quite another bird.
It is only the solitary woodsman that is likely to observe the habits of the Ruffed Grouse.
He who has learned the art of sitting quietly on a log or waiting patiently in the cover of the thickets may gradually come to know many of its ways. Its drumming is one of the commonest sounds of the woods. Under favorable circumstances the sound will carry a mile. Yet many have never been conscious of hearing it, few have ever actually seen the performance, and to this day those who have watched the birds drum in confinement are in dispute as to whether the sound is made by the wings striking the air or the feathers of the breast. The sound serves three purposes: first, as a call to the female, second, as a challenge to combat; and third, as an expression of the abounding vigor and vitality of the male. It serves the first purpose admirably, as probably all the females within hearing come to the sound if they hear no other drummer, for the Ruffed Grouse is a polygamist and has been observed to mate with two or more females within a few minutes. The second purpose is served when one drummer approaches anther's station, for then a fight is likely to ensue until one or the other is whipped and driven away. The third purpose apparently is the only one served in the autumn, when the mating season is over and when the birds drum as a healthful exercise to expend their surplus energy.
It seems, at first sight, very unfortunate that Grouse nest on the ground where their nests are easily accessible to the prowlers of the forest, but if they built in trees, which they almost never do, their large nests would be conspicuous and readily seen by their enemies. The sitting bird covers her eggs, and so closely does she resemble her surroundings that even the keen-eyed Hawk passes her unawares. Also she seems to leave no scent at nesting time, for trained pointer and setter dogs have been unable to find a mother bird on the nest so long as she remained motion less. Often the nest is sheltered under log, stump, or tree, sometimes near the den of the fox, often near that of the skunk; but these prowlers seem to find it only if they fall upon it by accident, thus starting the bird, or if they see her enter or leave it. When the fox blunders on her retreat she bristles up and flies directly at his head. This startles him but does not divert him and his mouth is soon full of scrambled eggs.
The little ones with their pipings and flutterings would not long be safe in their lowly nest and so they leave it as soon as the natal down is dry and thenceforth become wanderers on the face of the earth. They do not stray far from the neighborhood, but patter about day by day, and gather under the mother's wings wherever night overtakes them. She is ready to defend them with her life, if need be, or to entice away any enemy by crying and fluttering in the path like a wounded bird. This ruse often is successful with a boy or a dog, but does not deceive Reynard, who quietly retires, lies down to await the mother's return, and, when the chicks rise from their concealment at her call, springs among the frightened brood and marks one for hi-s own.
In feeding, the little ones scatter through the woods, searching for insects on the forest floor or jumping and fluttering up to the overhanging foliage in search of their elusive prey, while the mother follows, watchful for any enemy that may be upon the trail. In about a week from the time they leave the egg the chicks can use their wings and within three weeks, though still no larger than very small chickens, they have learned to fly considerable distances and to rise quite high in air.
As their feathers grow they learn first to sleep on the ground in a circle about the mother and next to roost in shrubs and trees. As the summer wanes the growing birds make dusting places in dry spots along wood roads or southerly hillsides where they wallow and dust their feathers in the manner of a domestic fowl, to free themselves of parasites.
When autumn comes they are nearly full-grown but their numbers have decreased about one-half as they have many enemies. Now they visit the wild apple trees and grape vines or search for beechnuts and acorns among the fallen leaves. About the middle of October they begin to wander about and often are found dead in queer places where they have flown against some obstacle such as a high wire fence or the side of a building. This is the, unexplained "crazy season." They are now preparing for winter, laying in stores of fat, growing a long downy covering for body and legs and putting on their snowshoes, which consist of little horny comb-like appendages that grow from the sides of the toes to help support the weight of the body on the snow. Now comes the hunting season, when the bird has need of all its wits. Its many wiles and stratagems are known more or less to the hunter.
Commonly upon rising it goes behind a tree trunk or some thick foliage and keeps this between itself and its pursuer. Often it doubles upon its trail, circles, and lies close until the hunter has passed, rising behind him and getting safely away. Sometimes it flies rapidly out of sight but alights high in some tall, thick pine where it remains motionless until the coast is clear, and so, in one way or another, a few birds manage to survive the season and then they face the winter. As the inclement season comes on, they leave the heights and come down into the more sheltered valleys and swamps where they subsist on buds, foliage, twigs, and dried berries until vernal breezes blow and nature calls them again to the mating.

The Ruffed Grouse can be kept plentiful even in closely settled farming regions, provided small woods or thickets be left or are planted, and foods suitable for different seasons of the year are provided. Young birds are largely insectivorous. More than 95 per cent. of the diet of the young Grouse examined by Dr. Judd was insects. Newly hatched chicks eat the most; as they grow older they eat fruit, and later they feed on mast, grain, and buds. The study of the food habits of the young has not been as extensive as it should be, but it indicates that the chicks eat grasshoppers, cutworms, certain beetles, ants, parasitic wasps, buffalo tree-hoppers, spiders, grubs. and caterpillars. Undoubtedly many small insects and their eggs which are found in the woods and adjacent fields will be added to the list. The beetles seem to be preferred, but Dr. Judd says the Grouse he shot in September, in New Hampshire, were feeding largely on red-legged grasshoppers, which were abundant in the pastures where the birds foraged. The vegetable food consists largely of seeds, fruit, buds and leaves. Mast, including hazelnuts, beechnuts, chestnuts, and acorns, are staple foods, the acorns being the largest supply in many regions. Acorns of the scrub oak, scrub chestnut oak, white oak, and red oak are swallowed whole. The Ruffed Grouse undoubtedly eats grain and often procures it along woodland roads, where it resorts to dust and to feed on the abundant berries.
More than one-fourth of the yearly food of this bird is fruit. Its diet includes the hips of the wild rose, grapes, partridge berries, thorn apples, wild crab apples, cultivated apples, wintergreen berries, bayberries, blueberries, huckleberries.
blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, sarsaparilla berries, and others, wild and cultivated cherries, plums, haws, sumacs, including the poison sumac and poison ivy, which are taken with immunity.
Sportsmen are well aware of the fondness of this Grouse for wild grapes and apples, and they often find them in places where grapes are plentiful and in old fruit orchards, especially on abandoned farms. The wild rose-hips and sumac are excellent winter foods because they can be obtained above the snow. Wild and cultivated sunflowers furnish excellent food, and many other fruits and seeds of varying importance are on the Ruffed Grouse's bill of fare. Birch, poplar, willow, laurel, and other buds are eaten by the Ruffed Grouse, and the budding, practiced for the most part during the winter, enables it to survive the severe winters of the northern States and Canada, when other foods are buried in deep snows. The several species of birch buds are a staple.

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