Subsisting primarily on a seemingly harsh diet of leaves and buds, the Ruffed Grouse is well adapted to the northern forests in which it lives. It prefers walking to flying, and can roost on the ground, in a tree, or even within a snow bank if the weather is particularly cold. Breeding male Ruffed Grouse defend small territories of a few acres in size.
Young Ruffed Grouse have to work hard to leave their egg, a process which can take up to two days. Once hatched, they are soon able to leave the nest and follow the hen. Despite the obvious habitat differences between the two species, Ring-necked Pheasant eggs have been found in Ruffed Grouse nests.
Length: 17 inches
Wing span: 22 inches
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Description of the Ruffed Grouse
The Ruffed Grouse has bold barring on the flanks, a rounded tail with a black sub-terminal band, and a crest on the head. There are gray forms and reddish forms.
Seasonal change in appearance
Juveniles are somewhat similar to adults, but are less heavily marked and are yellowish below.
Ruffed Grouse occur in deciduous forests or mixed coniferous-deciduous forests. They favor early-successional forests.
Ruffed Grouse eat buds, leaves twigs, berries, seeds, and some insects.
Ruffed Grouse forage on the ground or in trees.
Ruffed Grouse occur in the northern U.S., much of Canada, and parts of Alaska. The population has declined in recent years.
Males make a resonant thumping or drumming sound by perching on a log and beating their wings at an increasing frequency.
Ruffed Grouse are often very tame, and may allow a close approach.
When snowshoe hares in Canada and Alaska are at a periodic low in their population cycle, predators turn to Ruffed Grouse and reduce their population.
The only vocalizations made by Ruffed Grouse are clucks when startled.
- Other forest grouse are darker in color and lack a crest.
The nest is a depression in the ground lined with leaves, pine needles, and grass, and is usually placed next to an object such as a rock or tree.
Number: Usually lay 9-12 eggs.
Color: Buff and sometimes with darker markings.
Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 23-25 days, and leave the nest soon after hatching, though they continue to associate with the female for some time.
Bent Life History of the Ruffed Grouse
Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.
Bent Life History for the Ruffed Grouse – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.
BONASA UMBELLUS UMBELLUS (Linneaus)HABITS
Spring: During the first warm days of early spring the wanderer in our New England woods is gladdened and thrilled by one of the sweetest sounds of that delightful season, the throbbing heart, as it were, of awakening spring. On the soft, warm, still air there comes to his eager ears the sound of distant, muffled drumming, slow and deliberate at first, but accelerating gradually until it ends in a prolonged, rolling hum. The sun is shining with all its genial warmth through the leafless woods, thawing out the woodland pools, where the hylas are already peeping, and warming the carpet of fallen leaves, from which the mourning cloak butterflies are rising from their winter sleep. Other insects are awing, the early spring flowers are lifting up their heads, and all nature is awakening. The breast of the sturdy ruffed grouse swells with the springtime urge, as he seeks some moss-covered log, a fallen monarch of the forest, or perhaps a rock on which to mount and drum out his challenge to all rivals and his lbve call to his prospective mate. If we are fortunate enough to find his throne, on which he has left many a sign of previous occupancy, we may see the monarch of all he surveys in all his proud glory.
Courtship: Dr. Arthur A. Allen, who has made some careful studies of the display and drumming of the ruffed grouse and shown some wonderful photographs of them, has contributed, at my request, a very full account of the whole performance, with some quotations from other, earlier observers. I have had to condense it somewhat, but it is substantially as follows:
“In a species as well known ~as this familiar game bird, which has claimed the attention of naturalists and sportsmen for nearly 200 years, and whose courtship performances have been watched and described by many observers, one would not expect many discrepancies in the accounts: at least among those recent observers who have had the benefit of the arguments of the earlier naturalists. Such is not the case, however, and it seems worth while, therefore, to summarize, here, the descriptions of the plumage display and the varied explanations of the drumming performance, before concluding with the writer’s personal experience. Published records of the courtship performances of the ruffed grouse date back to the year 1755 when a communication from George Edwards on the pheasant of Pennsylvania was printed in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (Edwards, 1755). In this classic communication Edwards quotes largely from a letter received from that famous naturalist, John Bartram. He says in part:
When living, they erect tbeir tails Uke turkey-cocks, and raise a ring of feathers round their necks, and walk very stately, making a noise a Uttle like a turkey, when the hunter must fire. They thump in a very remarkable manner, by clapping their wings against their sides, as is supposed, standing on a fallen tree. They begin their strokes at about two seconds of time distant from each other, and repeat them quicker and quicker, until they sound like thunder at a distance, which lasts about a minute, then ceases for 6 or 8 minutes, and begins again. They may be heard near half a mile, by which the hunters find them. They exercise their thumping in a morning and evening in the spring and fall of the year.
Edwards likewise quotes a Mr. Brooke, surgeon of Maryland, who says:
The beating of the pheasant, as we term it, is a noise chiefly made in the spring by the cock birds. It may be distinctly heard a mile in calm weather. They swell their breasts, like a pouting pigeon, and beat with their wings, which sounds not unlike a drum.
Edwards then goes on to quote from La Hontan (1703), who in his New Voyages to North America, vol. 1, P. 67, in speaking about the grouse says:
By flapping one Wing against the other, they mean to call their Mates, and the humming noise that issues thereupon, may be heard half a quarter of a League off.
“There is the argument in a nut shell; it is a problem of long standing. Bartram says that the grouse beats its body with its wings; Brooke intimates that it merely fans the air; La Hontan reports that it hits one wing against the other. A further complication is advanced by lodge (1905) when he tells us that the grouse was called ‘the carpenter bird’ by the Indians because they believed that it beat upon a log with its wings to produce the drumming sound.
“Let me quote from some of the apparently more authentic descriptions and explanations of the act. Audubon (1840) states that: * * * the drumming is performed in the following manner. The male bird, standing erect on a prostrate decayed trunk, raises the feathers of its body, in the manner of a Turkey-cock, draws its head towards its tail, erecting the feathers of the latter at the same time, and raising its ruff around the neck, suffers its wings to droop, and struts about on the log. A few moments elapse, when the bird draws the whole of its feathers close to its body, and stretching itself out, beats its sides with its wings in the manner of the domestic Cock, but more loudly, and with such rapidity of motion, after a few of the first strokes, as to cause a tremor in the air not unlike the rumbling of distant thunder.
“Between 1842 and 1874 one finds numerous references to the drumming of the grouse, but which of the four beliefs the respective authors hold as to the method of its production seems to depend upon whom they quote. William Brewster (1874), however, writing in the American Sportsman, describes the drumming of a grouse as actually watched by him from a distance of 12 feet
Suddenly he paused, and sitting down on his rump and tarsi, crossways on the log, with tail slightly expanded and hanging down loosely over the edge behind, with body exactly perpendicular, neck stretched to Its full length and feathers drawn closely to the body, he stretched out his wings stiffly at nearly right angles with the body. In this attitude he remained several seconds, and I was instantly reminded most forcibly of the pictures one sees of that singular family of birds, the penguins. Now the ~vings were drawn slightly hack, a quick stroke given forward, at the air, and a pulsating throb entirely different from any sound I have ever heard, struck my ear, producing at such short range an almost painful sensation on the drum; the wings were Immediately recovered, and another stroke, a trifle quicker than the first, was succeeded by another still quicker, until the wings vibrated too fast to be followed by the eye, producing the well-known terminal “roll of muffled thunder,” and not till then the “semicircular haze.” I say not till then, for the first two or three strokes could be distinctly followed by the eye. This over, the bird Immediately rose to Its feet, shook its feathers with an air of relief, and resumed its attitude of repose. * * ~
I think the drumming of the ruffed grouse is produced by the forward heats of the stiffened wings on the air, the planes of their motion being nearly horizontal, about four inches in length, with the initial ends represented by the points of a wire passed through the center of the erect body from side to side.
“Brewster’s explanation of the drumming seems to have been rather generally accepted until 1905. At that time Prof. C. F. Hodge, of Clark University, was experimenting in the rearing of grouse in captivity and enjoyed exceptional opportunities for watching the drumming performance at a distance of but a few feet and made 40 different photographs of the drummer. He published quite an extended account of this drumming with his conclusions and a number of his photographs in the Country Calendar (lodge, 1905). He states:
As to the matter of interpretation, I can not entirely agree with Professor Brewster. The appearance to the eye, however, supports his theory that the wing strikes nothing but air. But I am convinced that at just the critical moment, when the sound is produced, the wing moves with too lightning-like rapidity, even in the first slow strokes, for the eye to follow it. The wing, consequently, disappears from sight as it approaches the contour surfaces of the feathers of the sides. We must defer here to the eye of the camera, and some of the photographs certainly show the blur of the rapidly vibrating wings coming up and touching the tips of the feathers along the skIes. It is the impact of the stiffly held concave wing on the feather cushions of the sides that causes all the sound. In fact, the sound, so far as quality goes, can be best imitated by striking with a wing properly stretched, or even a concave fan, on an extremely light eider-down cushion.
“The next account which should be included is that of Frederick K. Vreeland reporting in Forest and Stream, for April, 1918, and reprinted in the Bulletin of the American Game Protective Association. After watching a grouse drum at a distance of 6 feet and after taking a remarkable series of photographs of the drumming bird, he came to the conclusion that the thumping sound was produced by the wings striking behind tbe back, and he introduces a photograph that he says ‘will prove to the most skeptical that they (the wings) did actually strike behind the drummer’s back.’
“E. J. Sawyer, after watching from a distance of a dozen feet the beginning, progress, and ending of at least a hundred drummings during the spring of 1921, concludes in the Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin for March, 1923:
1. The outward and upward motion [of the wings] is chiefly responsible fur the drumming sound, pardcularly during the first half of the performance, the inward and forward motion of the wings heing for the most part silent or nearly so.
2. The striking of the air alone with the wings is practically the sole cause of the sound.
“With this framework to build upon, the writer here submits pictures (pls. 26, 27) of a grouse drumming, taken from the rear, which are made from enlarged motion pictures. Unfortunately it is not practicable to reproduce all the 123 frames making up the drum but a careful analysis of the pictures printed should satisfy the most skeptical as to how the sound is produced. The film was made in the spring of 1929 on Connecticut Hill, 17 miles southwest of Ithaca., N. Y.. after four nights spent in a blind about a dozen feet from the drumming log. The first night, April 26, the bird came to the log at 1.40 a. m. and drummed every 5 minutes until 5 o’clock. He then moved to another log about 100 feet away and drummed until 6 o’clock.
“The night of April 27 was cloudy and windy hut warmer and the grouse did not arrive until 4 a. m. He drummed every 3 minutes until 5 a. m. and then every 5 minutes until 5.30, and then walked off the log not to return that morning.
Stormy weather prohibited returning to the blind at the drumining log until May 4, when we resolved to try an experiment that might hold the grouse on the log later in the morning and at the same time throw some light on the object of the drumming as well as the method. We hoped it might also give us an indication as to the polygamous proclivities of the grouse. Accordingly we took with us a captive female grouse in a crate with 2-inch wire netting over the top. This we set in front of the log, concealing the sides with boughs so that the female would be most visible from the~ log. The experiment was entirely a success.
The night was cloudy, and it rained intermittently with occasional snowflakes. At 4.45 we were awakened by a fluttering in the crate and peering through the peephole beheld the male bird in full display: tail up, ruffs extended, wings drooping but pressed to the body and not touching the log. He moved along the log ever so slowly until near the female. Then he lowered his head, extending his neck and shaking out the ruffs still more, and made a few pecks at the log in front of him, though not always hitting it, with his bill. Next he started shaking his head and ruffs with a rotating motion and commenced a series of short hisses, each one sounding like drawing the palm of one’s hand rapidly backward, forward, and backward again over the sleeve or the trouser leg. He shook his head more and more rapidly, the hisses corresponding, and finally with a quick little run forward and a prolonged hiss, he struck a pose and held it for several seconds. In this pose the tail was swung over more to one side, the rump feathers on the offside lifted, and the extended head and ruE turned toward the female. The male continued this strutting and posing, usually on the log but sometimes in front of the crate, until 5.30, when he attempted to mate with the female reaching his head far down through the wire and apparently seizing hold of her, for he pulled out at least one feather. lie went through all the motions of actual mating though the wire separated them by several inches. He then proceeded down the log to his accustomed place and drummed. This seems rather significant as indicating that the drum is probably a challenge to other males even more than an announcement of his presence to the female.
“Audubon states that ‘the female, which never drums, ffies directly to the place where the male is thus engaged,’ but so far as I know, no one has ever seen a female grouse come to the male on or near his drumming log, although a great many hours have been spent by different observers watching the drumming bird. I think we are justified in concluding that while she may do so occasionally, she does not do so with any regularity and that the male must find her sometime during the day when he is not drumming. The drumming, therefore, resolves itself primarily into a challenge to other males to keep out of the drummer’s territory.
“Let us next analyze how the sound is produced. The ordinary drum, such as the one filmed, requires almost exactly S seconds from the first wing beat until the last. With the motion-picture camera taking 16 pictures per second, the performance is registered on 123 frames. The first one or two wing beats are almost silent and are given while the bird is in a nearly normal horizontal position, the wings striking downward and inward. The bird’s tail is being lowered against the log during this preliminary beat or beats. Then abruptly he stands erect with his tail against the log, wings drooping at his sides and appears to throw his ‘shoulders’ back. This might give the impression that the wings were struck behind the back, because the forward stroke of the wing follows so instantaneously that the eye scarcely perceives it, and it is given with such force and the wings come back to the normal position so quickly that the entire action registers on only one frame of the motion-picture film having an exposure of approximately one-fiftieth of a second. Be tween the ‘thumps’ the wings of the bird register on the film with scarcely a blur representing the intervals between thumps. The varying tempo of the intervals between thumps has been noticed by all observers and as registered on the film is as follows, each number being the number of pictures or the number of sixteenths of a second between thumps:
5: 6–8-8-6-5-5: 4: 4: 3: a–3: 2: 2: 1: 2: 1: 1: 1: 1: 1: 1 00 X~3003C0OO000O00O 1.
“If one now examines the series of pictures he will see that not once is the back blurred, as it would be if the wings struck behind the back, and that wherever the wings have moved with suI~icient rapidity to cause a compression of the air and resulting sound, they are registered forward and upward. This then is the effective soundproducing stroke of the wing: f oward and upward: not outward and upward as stated by Sawyer: more like his inward and forward, which he says is silent or nearly so.
“Moreover, if one watches the tail of the grouse during the drumming performance, he will see it become more and more flattened against the log, for ‘action and reaction are equal and opposite in direction ‘ and the forward-upward stroke of the wings tends to drive the bird backward and downward on its tail. The reaction that follows cessation of drumming is even more clear to the observer, for always, upon the completion of the drum, the bird -pitches slightly forward and the tail lifts from the log as if it were a spring under compression; when the pressure is suddenly released by the cessation of drununing, the tail throws the bird forward and upward and is itself carried upward by the impetus given the bird.
“A single weak thump heard at the conclusion of the drum registers on the film in frame 122 after an interval of one frame where the wings are quiet. It corresponds to the beginning ‘thump’ and is given as the bird pitches forward and is in a more horizontal position. This stroke is forward and downward rather than upward and perhaps helps the bird to regain its balance.
“During the four nights and mornings spent in the blind the grouse drummed approximately one hundred times. I am frank to confess that I did not watch every performance, for the strain of keeping one’s eyes at a peephole is considerable in the small hours of the morning. I did watch most of the performances, however, until I was absolutely convinced that the sound was produced as here set forth.”
Nesting: The ruffed grouse is a woodland bird, and its nest is almost always in thick woods or under dense cover, though I once found a nest in a fairly open situation; it was placed at the base of a small white birch in a clearing, with only a few small trees and bushes near it. Most of the nests I have seen in Massachusetts have been found by flushing the bird while hunting through heavy woods in search of hawk’s nests. The commonest location is at the base of a tree; this may be a large oak among heavy deciduous timber, or a birch or other small tree in lighter, mixed woods; several nests have been in dense white-pine groves at the base of a large or a small pine. One nest was beside a rock in mixed woods, one was partially hidden under a corner of a woodpile in open pine woods, and others have been well concealed under fallen dead pine boughs or under old piles of brush. Several have been within 50 or 100 yards of a red-shouldered hawk’s nest. One that I was watching was near a crow’s nest; all the eggs but one were taken from this nest, probably by the crows. Edward H. Forbush (1927) tells of a nest, found by J. A. Farley, that was directly under a sharpshinned hawk’s nest. The nests are merely deep hollows in the ground, lined with whatever material is at hand, usually oak or other hardwood leaves; I have seen nests in pine groves that were lined with nothing but pine needles. There are usually a few feathers of the grouse mixed with the leaves. The female is a close sitter and often does not leave the nest until the intruder is close at hand; but, when approached on a second visit, she is more apt to flush wild. In leaving she flies directly from the nest, if close pressed, with a great whir of wings, which makes the leaves fly and thus partially covers the eggs. Perhaps, on a more leisurely departure, she may cover the eggs more carefully.
All the nests that I have seen have been on the ground in perfectly dry situations. But Major Bendire (1892) says: “Mr. Lynds Jones, of Grinnell, Iowa, found a nest of the Ruffed Grouse in a hollow stump, and Mr. C. M. Jones, of Eastford, Connecticut, found one in a swamp, on a little cradle knoll, surrounded by water. Mr. William N. Colton, of Biddeford, Maine, records a nest found between the stems o,f three young birches, fully 8 inches from the ground.” George M. Sutton (1928) reports two nests found in a sphagnum bog near 1-Iartstown, Pa., one of which was ” sheltered by leaves of skunk cabbage.” E. A. Samuels (1883) records two instances where this grouse has nested in an abandoned crow’s nest in a tree.
Eggs: From nine to a dozen eggs constitute the usual set, occasionally fewer and often as many as 14. Lester W. Smith sent me a photograph of a set of 23 eggs, found in Connecticut, and he told me that every egg hatched. This was perhaps the product of two females. I believe that ordinarily an egg is laid each day until the set is completed; but often, especially if bad weather occurs, an interval of a day or two may intervene. E. P. Warner (1911) reported that, in a nest he had under observation, he found 3 eggs on April 17, 4 on the 20th. 6 on the 24th. 10 on the 30th, and 114 on May 7, all of which hatched.
The eggs are ovate in shape, with variations toward short-ovate or elongate-ovate. The shell is smooth with a very slight gloss. The ground colors vary from “~hamois” to “cream-buff” or “cartridge buff,” or, more rarely, from “pinkish buff” to “cinnamon-buff.” About half of the eggs. perhaps more, are entirely immaculate; others are more or less spotted with a few small spots or dots of “saysi brown,” “clay color,” or duller buffs. The measurements of ’13 eggs average 38.9 by 29.6 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 42.7 by 28.3, 40 by 32, and 33 by 25 millimeters.
Young: The incubation period has been variously recorded by different observers at 21, 24, or 28 days; probably 21 days is the normal period under favorable circumstances, which may be lengthened by cold or wet weather or by interrupted incubation. The female alone performs this duty and raises only one brood in a season. The young leave the nest soon after they are hatched, or as soon as the down is dry, leaving the empty eggshells in the nest neatly split into halves.
The female ruffed grouse is a model mother, assuming full care of the young, leading them away from the nest, teaching them to scratch and hunt for insects and seeds among the fallen leaves, and showing them where the best berries are to be found and what green food is good to eat. The young are at first very sensitive to dampness and must. not be allowed to wander in wet grass or herbage; she broods them under her wings, keeping them dry and warm during wet weathcr, and she broods them also at night. When they are older she leads them to bare places in the woodland roads, where they are taught to dust themselves and free their plumage of vermin. A species of wood tick causes the death of many very young chicks by burrowing into the skin of the neck or back: a situation with which the mother seems unable to cope. William Brewster (1925) obtained some evidence that the ticks kill the small chicks by boring through the tender skull into the brain.
But her devotion is shown to the best advantage in her heroic defense of the young against their enemies. While walking quietly through the woods we may be startled by a shrill, whining cry and see the infuriated bird, bristling with rage, rushing toward us, her tail spread and all her plumage extended; she seems twice her natural size and imposing enough to cause any enemy to pause. Sometimes she is less aggressive and merely flutters away, feigning lameness, or skulks away, crouching close to the ground and uttering the same whining cry, which is the signal to the young to hide. When the young are older a clucking note is given as a signal to fly. ’12 lie behavior of the mother is so startling that we have lost sight of the young; they have disappeared completely; and search as we may, our chances of finding any are small. We had better not hunt for them, as we may step on them. But, if we conceal ourselves and wait patiently, we shall see a pretty sight, which is well described by Edmund J. Sawyer (1923) &s follows:
There follows perhaps ten minutes of silence. Then comes a low, mewing note, pe-e-e-e-u-u-r-r-r, The note can be imitated by trying to pronounce the word “pure” in a strained, tremulous way with the mouth nearly closed. Soon there Is an entirely different note like the low clucking of a hen or turkey; this grows louder and more confident and I catch a glimpse now and then of the watchful hen picking her cautious ~vay back among the low plants. Tsec: tsee: tsee-e-e-e, answers a chick here and there about me, all unseen. Puck-puk-jnsk, from the mother; tsee-tsee-t8ee-e-e-e, from the chicks, and one of the latter comes flying down from some leafy lower branch; tsee-tsee-tsee: -and another appears from around a stump or log. There follows more calling back and forth, more chicks come out of hiding and already the yak-yak-puke have beguh to grow faint in the distance as the mother Quickly leads the brood off under cover of the ferns. I have on two or more occasions discovered one of the chicks in his hiding place on the leafy ground. In each case he was merely squatting there, his coat of mottled down perfectly matching the browns and grays of the forest floor.
The wings start to grow soon after the young are hatched, and before they are half grown they are able to fly, or, at least, to flutter up into the lower branches of a tree. They are zealously guarded by their mother all through the period of growth, and in the fall their father joins the family group, which keeps together during winter in a loose flock. Edwyn Sandys (1904) had an interesting experience with a pointer pup, which was attacked by a hen grouse, the guardian of a brood about as large as quail. He describes the incident as follows:
A sudden tremendous uproar attracted ïmy attention, and, to my astonish.. ment, I saw an old hen grouse vigorously belaboring the bewildered pup with her wings and giving him a piece of her mind in a torrent of cacklings, such as I had never dreamed a grouse capable of uttering. The poor pup, after first trying to make a point, and then to grab her, finally bolted in dismay. She followed him for about a dozen yards, beating him about the rump with her wings, which kept up a thunderous whirring. She acted exactly like a wrathful old fowl, and the pup like a condemned fool.
Edward H. Forbush (1927) relates the following incident:
Once I saw a fracas between the ordinary inoffensive rabbit and a grouse hen, defending her chicks. She “bristled up” and struck at bunny, but he apparently tried to leap upon her. In the ensuing running fight he drove her about a rod. Her chicks having hidden in the meantime, she then flew away. Very rarely, when the young are in danger, the male bird appears and takes his turn at running toward and strutting near the intruder, and he has been known to care for a brood after the death of the mother bird.
The following extract is quoted from the journal of Dr. Edgar A. Mearns:
We surprised an old hen pheasant (Bonasa umbellws). She gave a loud squall, and whirred loudly as she heat her wings upon the ground in front of us. The little chicks, only 2 or 3 days old and about 15 in number, at first piped out most lustily in their first surprise and bewilderment; but soon they recovered, and piled over each others’ backs pell-mell in their efforts to escape and hide. Several of them rushed directly into the water of the brook close beside which we discovered them. One swam clear across; another was carried a distance down the stream and then crawled under a stone beside the bank. Others hid under stones and ddbrls in the brook; and one fellow was actually drowned In Its effort to bide. We found It floating dead upon theï water when we returned to the spot sometime afterward. The old bird dragged herself over the ground with a great clucking; but when I ran rapidly after her, she took to wing and flew a little way off, and for a few minutes remained silent. We had captured three of the little chicks, and now examined to see what sort of hiding places the balance of the flock had chosen. One was packed like a sardine between two stones in the brook, with its head and streak of Its back visible; another was wedged tightly between a stone and some herbage growing beside it. Two cute little fellows were found under shelving stones in the brook, running imminent risk of drowning. The drops of water were trickling off of one bird’s head in rapid succession, and it was found fairly drenched. I verily believe that, had I not rescued it from this perilous situation it would surely have died rather than be discovered.
Plumages: In the ruffed grouse chick the entire crown and back are “tawny” or “russet,” darkest on the back and rump, shading off to “pale ochraceous-buff” on the sides of the head, chest, and flanks; the underparts are pale yellow, shading off to yellowish white on the chin and belly; there is a black auricular patch, but no other spotting on the head. The wings begin to grow soon after the chick is hatched and reach beyond the sprouting tail before the chick has grown much. The juvenal wings are fully developed and the young bird has reached the flight stage before it is half grown. The juvenal remiges are “light vinaceous-cinnamon,” unmarked except for a very fine sprinkling of a slightly darker shade, somewhat lighter tips, and darker bases.
The juvenal plumage is at its height when the bird is about threequarters grown, for soon after that the remiges are molted and the first winter plumage begins to appear. In full juvenal plumage the sexes are alike and closely resemble the adult female, but they are much browner above and below, less distinctly barred on the underparts, and more distinctly barred on the tails, which show both red and gray phases. The mantle is variegated with bright and dull browns, heavily barred and finely sprinkled with black, and has many broad buff or whitish shaft streaks; the chin is whitish instead of buff; and the chest is washed with “hazel.”
The first winter plumage is acquired by a complete postjuvenal molt, except that the two outer juvenal primaries on each wing are retained throughout the first year. This molt begins in summer before the bird is fully grown and is generally completed before October. This plumage is practically adult and the sexes are now distinguishable. The new ruffs are a duller, more brownish black in the young male and are at first tipped with “hazel.”
Adults have a very limited prenuptial molt, confined to the head and chin, and a complete poatnuptial molt in August and September. The red and gray phases, most conspicuous in the tails, are present in this and in all other races of this grouse, though one or the other phase is supposed to predominate in each one of the races. In the northern races gray tails predominate; from Pennsylvania southward “silver tails,” as they are called, are rare; in the western and northwestern races red tails are rare; New England birds, as a whole, are about halfway between the extremes. ” Red ruffs,” birds with brownish ruffs, tinged with a coppery red sheen, are occasionally seen in many of the races.
Food: Forbush (1927) has published the most complete and condensed list of the vegetable food of the ruffed grouse that I have seen, based largely on Dr. Sylvester D. Judd’s report (1905a). Following is his list in full:
Nuts or Seeds: Hazelnuts, beaclinuts, chestnuts, acorns. Seeds of tick trefoil, hornbeam, vetch, hemlock, pitch pine, maple, blackberry, lily, beggar’s ticks, chickweed, sheep sorrel, sedges, violet, witch-hazel, beech drops, avens, persicana, frost weed, jewel weed. Buds, Blossoms or Folfcpe: Poplar, birch, willow, apple, pear, peach, alder, hazel, beech, ironwood, hornbeam, blackberry, blueberry, spruce, arbor vitae, Mayflower, laurel, maple, spicebush, partridge berry, sheep sorrel, aster, green ovary of bloodroot, clover, pursiane, wood sorrel, yellow sorrel, heuchera, chickweed, catnip, cinquefoil, buttercup, speedwell, saxifrage, liveforever, meadow rue, smilax, horsetall rush, azalea, false goat’s beard, dandelion, cudweed. Fruit: Rose hips, grapes, smooth sumac, dwarf sumac, staghorn sumac, scarlet sumac, poison Ivy, partridge berry, thorn apple, cockspur thorn, scarlet thorn, mountain ash, wintergreen, bayberry, blackberry, huckleberry, blueberry, cranberry, sarsaparilla berries, greenbrier, hairy Solomon’s seal, smooth Solomon’s seal, black raspberry, raspberry, domestic cherry, cultivated plum, wild black cherry, wild red cherry, elder, red elder, black haw, nannyberry, withe rod, maple-leaved arrow wood, high-bush cranberry, mountain cranberry, snowberry, feverwort, black huckleberry, black alder, flowering dogwood, bunchberry, cornel, silky cornel, pepperidge, mulberry, bittersweet, manzanita, barberry, Virginia creeper.
Doctor Judd’s analysis (1905a) showed 89.08 per cent of vegetable matter and 10.92 per cent of animal matter in the crops and stomachs of 208 grouse, collected in every month of the year in Canada and in 14 States. He says:
The animal food is almost all insects. The vegetable food consists of seeds, 11.79 percent; fruit, 28.82 percent; leaves and buds, 48.11 percent, and miscel laneous vegetable matter, 0.86 percent. The insect food proper includes grasshoppers, 0.78 percent; caterpillars, 1.15 percent; beetles, 4.57 percent, and miscellaneous insects, 3.86 percent. Some miscellaneous animal matter, made up of spiders and snails, is also eaten. The ruffed grouse eats a somewhat smaller proportion of insects than the bobwhite, but, like it, feeds on them to a large extent in the breeding season.
Judd lists among the animal food mainly insects, various grasshoppers, crickets, various caterpillars, cutworms, army worms, cotton worms, apple worms, various beetles and their larvae, clover weevil, potato beetle, various flies, bugs, ants, spiders, oak galls made by insects, snails, and slugs.
The foregoing lists are probably not complete, for the grouse will eat, at different seasons, a great variety of food. In spring they are fond of the catkins, blossoms, and tender leaves of many of the plants named above, the fresh blades of new grass, and the wild strawberries, when they come. Forbush (1927) adds: Perhaps the plant most sought after in the New England coastal region Is the cow-wheat, a low growing plant with small white blossoms which thrives almost everywhere that this bird is found. huffed Grouse In confinement are so fond of it that they eagerly eat quantities of it, consuming the entire plant, root and branch. Edible mushrooms are taken eagerly. Fern leaves which remain green in swamps under the snow of winter are eaten then as well as at other seasons.
During summer, when the birds find their food on or near the ground, insects begin to form an important part of their food, about 30 per cent of the adult food, according to Doctor Judd (1905a). He says that the newly batched chicks are nearly, or wholly, insectivorous, feeding on cutworms, grasshoppers, beetles, ants, wasps, spiders, and caterpillars. The old birds, too, like to wander out into the fields and meadows near the woods in search of grasshoppers and crickets and to scratch among the woodland leaves for other insects and grubs. All kinds of berries and fruits claim their attention during summer and fall; I have found them frequenting regularly the edges of cranberry bogs near the woods, as well as wild-apple trees in secluded spots.
In winter, when their ground food is buried under the snow, they have to resort to trees and bushes for what fruits and berries are left, for leaves that remain green, and for dried catkins and buds. They are said to feed largely on leaves of sheep-laurel and mountainlaurel; and people have been poisoned by eating birds that had fed on such diet. I wonder if the poisoning was not due to berries of poison sumac and poison ivy, which are easily obtained in winter.
The ruffed grouse has a bad habit of budding cultivated apple trees, quite extensively when other food crops fail. Forbush (1927) gives us the following surprising figures:
Mr. Charles Hayward reports that he found in the crop of a grouse 140 apple buds, 134 pieces of laurel leaves, 28 wintergreen leaves, 69 birch buds, 205 blueberry buds, 201 cherry buds and 109 blueberry stems. Another bird had 610 apple buds in its crop and a third had more than 300. Weed and Dearborn found In the crop of a female ruffed grouse 347 apple buds, 88 maple buds and 12 leaves of sheep laurel.
This damage may be serious during certain winters, especially in orchards close to woods where the grouse are numerous; he mentions a case where a tree has been denuded of buds and killed. But, if not overdone, budding may be more beneficial than injurious, amounting to merely healthful pruning, for he says: For twenty years one or two birds customarily “budded” on an apple tree near my farmhouse window. This tree seemed to be their favorite, but notwithstanding the “budding” or because of it, the tree bore a good crop of large apples nearly every year, while other trees not “budded” by the grouse oftea bore none. Apparently the thinning of the buds by tbe birds was a benefit to the crop.
Doctor Judd (1905a) quotes from a letter from Miss M. E. Paine, as follows:
The ruffed grouse eats the buds of apple trees, but it is a help rather than a damage. Last year a wild apple tree on top of a hill, between pasture and mowing, was almost entirely budded. I thought entirely at first, but the terminal buds were almost always left uninjured, also many minute buds on each limb. The result was the terminal buds were pushed out and grew rapidly and strongly. The tree blossomed abundantly and the fruit hung in clusters toward the ends of the branches. The tree is of medium size and the branches droop to the ground. In the fall the golden apples occupied fully as much room as the green leaves, and as one looked at the tree a few rods away: a perfect picture, barrels of apples on it, all nearly perfect and fair, just the result of a vigorous trimming.
William Brewster (1925) describes their method of budding as follows:
At six o’clock this morning my assistant, R. A. Gilbert, called me to see some Ruffed Grouse budding in a large wild apple tree that stands within sixty yards of our old farm-house, from one of the eastern windows of which I was able to watch them very satisfactorily through my field-glass. Five or six were noticed at once and before many minutes had elapsed I counted no less than nine scattered all over the tree, a few being low down on stout limbs close to Its main trunk and hence Inconspicuous, but the greater number near the ends of Its longer upper branches, where they could be plainly seen, while one or two were perched on the very topmost twigs, boldly outlined against the grey sky and looking as big as Hen-hawks. They were busily engaged in budding, an operation which I have never before witnessed to such good advantage. It was not less surprising than interesting to see birds ordinarily so shy and retiring, and so very stately and dignified of bearing, assembled thus numerously in an isolated, leafless tree not far from a house, hopping and fluttering almost ceaselessly amid Its branches, thereby displaying unwonted activity and sprightllness, as well as apparent fearlessness. At times, however, they would all stand erect and motionless for a few moments, evidently looking and listening intently. Those feeding near the ends of long and slender brancbes bad some di~culty in keeping tbeir foothold and were constantly obliged to jerk up their tails, and flutter their wings In order to preserve their balance, especially when as often happened, they stretched forward or even for a moment bent almost straight downward after the manner of Redpolls or Pine Siskins similarly engaged. They picked off and swallowed the buds In rapid succession, with much the same quick, bobbing motion of the head as that of a domestic fowl feasting on corn. The supply of such buds as they chose, within reach of the most favourmg perch, seldom lasted more than a mInute or two. When It became exhausted the partridge either moved still farther out among the terminal twigs, or flew to another part of the tree. Birds at work not far from the trunk behaved somewhat differently, and with decidedly more dignity and deliberation, doubtless because the buds they were obtaining grew on short twigs Within easy reach of thick and perfectly rigid branches on which they could stand or work as easily as on level ground.
Behavior: There is a striking difference in behavior between the unsophisticated grouse of the primitive wilderness and that of the wise and wary birds of thickly settled regions. Birds that have never heard the roar of a gun and have not learned to know their dangerous human enemies are often absurdly, almost stupidly, tame; whereas the birds that have been persistently hunted have developed such a high degree of wariness and strategy as to make it difficult to outwit them. Formerly in much of New England and eastern Canada the ruffed grouse well deserved the name of “fool hen,” and was one of the easiest of birds to shoot. It would either walk quietly away or fly up into the branches of a tree and stare stupidly at the intruder. It was an easy matter for a good shot to pick off its head with a rifle, and it was considered unsportsmanlike to shoot grouse in any other way. It has often been said that when a number of grouse are perched in one tree, if the lowest one is shot first and tIien the next lowest one, the others will remain until the last one is killed. I doubt, however, if this has often happened; it hardly seems credible; and even in Audubon’s time it was doubted. Even now, in the wilder portions of Canada, in the southern Alleghenies, and in some of the Western States, the grouse are absurdly tame and take but little notice of human beings.
The normal behavior of sophisticated ruffed grouse will be referred to later, but, while we are on the subject of tameness, we must consider the numerous cases recorded in print of abnormal tameness of individual grouse in regions where their fellows are the wildest. Space will not permit reference to all of more than a dozen such cases of peculiar behavior that I have heard or read about; one or two samples must suffice. In all these cases an individual grouse. sometimes a male and sometimes a female, showed a strong attachment for, or a decided interest in, one or more human beings, with the element of fear entirely eliminated. Carleton D. Howe (1904) published a full account of the behavior of a hen grouse that devel oped a strong friendship for a farmer and even allowed herself to be handled by other people. The friendship lasted through at least two seasons. “When Mr. Rand called ‘Chickee,’ ‘Chickee,’ the bird would come out of the woods and sit upon his knee. From his knee she would fly to his shoulder, and then to the ground. The bird would repeat this performance a half dozen times, clucking contentedly the while.”
Howard H. Cleaves (1920) tells an interesting story of a belligerent cock grouse called ” Billy” that “went forth to battle” with a motor tractor; he was evidently attracted by the noise it made, was not in the least afraid of it, and would even ride on it in motion. When first seen he was 25 yards up the road, his ruff extended and his head lowered and jerking nervously, after the manner of a rooster about to make battle with his foe. Billy took the middle of the lane and, following a peculiar, sinuous course, came steadily on to meet us with reckless abandon. The contrast was absurd. On the one side was a wild bird not larger than a bantam, and on the other were live adult humans led by a mobile mass of several thousand pounds of steel from which emanated a loud noise: a feathered David and a mechanical Goliath.
At the instant when it seemed that further advance by either side would mean annihilation for the eccentric Grouse, the pilot brought his tractor to a stop and descended to the ground, whereupon began one of the most remarkable of exhibitions. Billy darted toward Mr. Armstrong’s feet and pecked at his trousers, ond when Mr. Armstrong walked away the bird ran after him with the greatest agility, striking with wing or beak on coming within range. If a hand were extended toward him, Billy would peck it also and, most extraordinary of all, he would permit himself to he ptckcd up and freely handled, perching on finger, wrist, or shoulder. When on the latter he was invariably prompted to investigate ones eyes and nose with his sharp beak!
A number of other published accounts illustrate similar traits. These abnormal birds are usually resident in some restricted area where they can generally be called by the human voice or whistle or come to the sound of a moving vehicle, a woodchopper’s ax, or a stick rustling among the leaves. They follow their human friends about like pet dogs, can be coaxed to eat out of human hands, will often peck at them in a possibly playful manner, and will eventually allow themselves to be handled. Rae T. Hadzor (1923) tells of a hen grouse that flew into the yard one fall, possibly to escape from some enemy, and lived there about a year, mingling with the chickens but roosting by herself in an open shed. She became tame enough to eat out of the hand and even laid a set of eggs in the orchard. Of course, they did not hatch.
When a ruffed grouse is suddenly flushed it springs into the air with a loud whirring of wings, which is quite startling and discon. certing to a novice, and goes hurtling off through the trees or bushes at terrific speed, gaining momentum very quickly. Evidently it depends largely on its feet for the initial spring from solid ground, for it has difficulty in rising from soft snow, where it leaves the imprint of its whole body and wings in its struggle to rise. But it does not always make a noisy “getaway “~ I have often seen one flit softly and silently up and over a stone wall, fence, or bush when it was not frightened or thought it was not observed. Again, when flying from a tree, it usually launches downward and flies away almost silently. The roar of a rising grouse, often too far away to be seen, is a common sound in regions where the birds are wild. Its flight is strong, exceedingly swift, and usually quite direct, but not, as a rule, prolonged for more than 150 or 200 yards, unless the bird is crossing a river or an open space between tracts of woods. A common habit is to fly low and straightaway along a woodland road or path, but its usual method is to rise above entangling undergrowth and then fly away through the trees, soon setting its wings and scaling down into thick cover. I have always thought it particularly skillful in dodging the branches of trees in its swift flight through thick woods, but evidently it is not always successful in this, for Forbush (1927) says:
It does not, like the Wood Duck, so control its movements as to avoid the twigs and branches of trees, but dashes through them. I have seen one In such a case strike bodily against a limb and fall to the ground. This bird had been tired at in a neighboring wood, and had crossed the open with tremendous speed to another wood where it struck the limb. Aside from the shock the bird was unhurt. Mr. Albert A. Cross of Huntington sent me a Huffed Grouse that in full flight had collided with the forked and broken end of a dead limb, driving one of the prongs three inches into its breast and the other Into its vitals, and tearing the head and neck from the body.
Forbush also speaks of a habit I have never noted: A hard-pressed bird has been known to go Into shoal water, apparently for concealment. Mr. L. Barber tells us that a grouse that was startled by his dog alighted in the~ water. She was entirely under water except her head which was covered by a projecting bush. Mr. W. L. Bishop writes that he killed a Goshawk near a brook, and afterward discovered by traces on the snow that the hawk had been pursuing a fluffed Grouse. He found the frightened bird in the brook entirely submerged with the exception of Its head. Though the fluffed. Grouse seems to drink mostly the dew and raindrops from the leaves, It Is not afraid of water, and if winged over water can swim fairly well.
Grouse are much given to dusting themselves in soft, dusty places in woods roads, in country highways or on old rotted logs or stumps. They have favorite dusting places in which a few telltale feathers may be found.
Voice: The vocal accomplishments of the ruffed grouse are quite simple. The commonest note heard when the grouse is slightly alarmed is a sharp quit: quit, usually given while walking on the ground and indicating nervousness. The squealing or Aining note uttered while defending its young is probably also a signal to them to hide, as a clucking note is a signal to older young to fly. Then there is the call of the female to her young, crut: erut, car-r-r, and various soft cooing notes and chatterings.
Enemies: Besides its archenemy, man, who has shot and snared it almost to extinction in many places, the ruffed grouse has many natural enemies and is subject to many diseases. It always managed to survive, however, until man came on the scene; its large broods have helped it to come back to normal numbers after periods of scarcity. Foxes destroy large numbers of grouse, as well as their eggs and young; feathers scattered about their burrows and tracks in the snow tell the story. Forbush (1927) says:
Mr. C. B. Ingalls, writing of an experience at Templeton, stated that he saw a fox approaching the nest of a Huffed Grouse near the edge of the woods. “A big ball of feathers,” writes Mr. Ingalls, “flew out at that fox and drove him some distance into the grassland.” The fox, nevertheless, returned to the attack only to die in his tracks by a well-directed bullet from the rifle of the watcher, not, however, until the brute had filled both mouth and throat with egg contents from the nest of the devoted mother.
Wandering dogs, stray cats (of which we have too many in our woods), lynxes, and perhaps raccoons and weasels kill many old and young grouse, the former being probably mostly caught on their nests. Skunks, opossums, raccoons, and squirrels undoubtedly rob the nests. The goshawk, also called “partridge hawk,” levies heavy toll during periods of its abundance; it is often named as one of the chief causes of the periodic scarcity of grouse. The Cooper’s, redtailed, and red-shouldered hawks probably kill a few. Great horned owls pounce on them in their night roosts and are very destructive. The evidence against the screech owl and the long-eared owl, both of which have been seen eating grouse, does not seem conclusive. Crows are canny nest hunters and doubtless break up many nests; I feel confident that a nest that I was watching was robbed by a family of crows that had a nest near by. Dr. Charles W. Townsend (1912) reports a crow seen flying off with a freshly killed grouse in its claws; examination of the body of the grouse, which the crow was seen to drop, led to the conclusion that the crow had killed it.
Fall: Audubon (1840) refers to short migratory flights of grouse in October across the Ohio and Susquehanna Rivers. These are probably nothing more than autumn wanderings in search of food. But there is much evidence of an incipient or suppressed migratory instinct in the erratic short flights of ruffed grouse during the socalled “crazy season” in fall. At such times they certainly do be. have queerly. I have repeatedly known them to appear in my yard in the center of the city, or to kill themselves by flying against build ings or through windows. Once one flew through a window into our machine shop, where the machinery was running and scores of men were working. One of my neighbors once found one inside her house with no visible means of entrance except through a chimney. Forbush (1927) says that: Some have been known to go through the glass of moving motor cars or trolley cars and even into locomotive headlights. So careless are they of obstructions that a high wire fence around a covert is likely to kill all the Ruffed Grouse within its confines. Dr. A. 0. Gross found that three birds which had been killed by flying against obstructions were infected by internal parasites, and he suggests the possibility that the irritation caused by such parasites may be the initial cause of the crazy” behavior commonly observed.
Game: Although the bobwhite may be more universally popular, for the reasons stated elsewhere, I think most sportsmen will agree that the ruffed grouse, known in the South as “pheasant,” in the North as “partridge” or “patridge,” and in Canada as “birch partridge,” is the unrivaled king of North American upland game birds. Shooting into a flock of whirring quail gives a thrill, but it is comparatively easy, and shooting the straight-flying prairie chicken in the open is child’s play compared with stopping the swift rush of the wily grouse through the treetops. The thundering roar of the rising bird, the flash of nitro at a vanishing glimpse of brown feathers, the dull thud of a plump partridge falling to earth, and the whir of wings among dry leaves as it beats its final tattoo, combine to produce the thrill of thrills for the successful sportsman. And with the freshly killed monarch of the woods in hand come admiring thoughts, so well expressed by Charles B. Morss (1923):
In no other game bIrd do the tones of gray, black, cinnamon, and white shade and blend with such quiet harmony. Child of the wilderness that he Is, In the full dark pupil of that eye surrounded by an iris of October’s own brown, seem always to dwell the brooding shadows of the great forest he loves so well. And in the moulding of hini Nature seems to have embodied all of the beauty, all of the charm, all of the inexplicable strangeness and romance of the autumnal woods and produced her feathered masterpiece: the perfect game bird. * And wherever you chance to find him: in the still shadow of ravine and glen where the climbing bittersweet twines its orange offering about old stumps and windfalls: on rocky hillsides clad with second growth where the wild barberry fruits In crimson racemes and berries of the wIntergreen flash among the leaves: or In the grass-grown tangles of birch meadow and maple swamp where glows the steady flame of the black alder: always is he the woodland’s pride, alert, instinct with life, and filled with a spirit and dash that furnishes, when In such mixed cover as we were hunting this day, the very climax of shooting with the shotgun.
A good partridge dog adds much to the pleasure and success of the hunt, but good partridge dogs are scarce, and a poor one is worse than none. I once had one that showed real “bird sense,” knew where to hunt for the birds, would not run too far away, was careful about flushing birds, and was a fine retriever. But I love to hunt alone, with nothing to distract my attention from the beauties of the autumn woods, to watch and study the interesting habits of the other wild creatures, to learn the haunts of the wily grouse and match my wits against his. Then, if I can, unaided, outwit this wizard of the woodland glades, learn to beat him at. his many clever tricks, I feel that I have earned my prize. Well he knows the trick of putting the trunk of a big tree or a thick tangle of leaves and branches between the hunter and himself in his headlong flight; or running off to one side, he will rise behind the gunner and get away safely; perhaps he will alight in the thick top o.~ a pine tree and slip away on the farther side of it on silent wings, giving the hunter an unexpecte(1 and difficult shot. Usually, if we miss, we can watch his distant flight to mark him down and flush him again; but he may run a long distance or fly out across an opening to another bit of cover and escape. Occasionally we get a pleasant surprise by killing a bird we could not see, shooting in the direction it has taken behind thick brush. Or we may think we have made a clean miss, as we see the bird keep on and on rising up and up into the sky until it appears as a small speck; but if we watch it, we may see it drop like a stone, shot in the head; then we need a good dog to find it. There is no bird that so tests the skill, patience, and endurance of a good wing-shot as the ruffed grouse and no shooting that calls for so much experience and intelligent study. There are very few who can make a respectable ratio of birds killed to shots fired; if one takes his shots as they come, there are very few that can put a bird in the pocket for every three empty shells. One must know where to look for his birds and study their food habits in the localities he hunts. One of the surest places to find them in my section is where an old apple orchard has been abandoned and overgrown with grapevines, briers, and birches, or where old apple trees grow along the edges of the woods, or where tangled thickets of berry-bearing shrubs, junipers, cedars, pines, and other forest growths are encroaching on deserted pasture lands. When the beechnut crop is good they may be found in sheltered spots on the sunny side of the woods or brushy hillsides. In the mountains farther south they frequent the rhododendron clumps, the ravines lined with laurel thickets, or the dense undergrowth along the streams, where shooting is difficult. In closing this chapter I am tempted to quote the appreciative words of one who has substituted the camera for the gun; Edmund J. Sawyer (1923) says:
And now there is little enough satisfaction in the reflection that that gun shot many a grouse, albeit all of them on the wing and not one over a dog. I have, after all, never taken a Grouse except through the immense advantage of my infernal powder and lead. I never outwitted him fairly; I have never held h!s limp form in my hand without feeling the rebuke of his matchless wings. I found no just ground to glory over the dead body of that perfect product of the wild outdoors, that past master of woodcraft with his wings, which so immeasurably outmatched the best my limbs could do; Those wings with their damning, rebuking evidence: a drop of lead-tinctured blood. The triumph was all hia.
Winter: If not too much disturbed the young birds remain in the family group with the female during fall and winter; and the male joins them late in fall. They fatten on the abundant crop of berries, fruits, and nuts in preparation for winter, their legs are now warmly feathered, their thick new plumage protects them against the increasing cold, and the comblike scales on their feet grow out to help them walk on the snow. They now seek their winter quarters in thick woods, where they can find shelter from cold winds and a good food supply within easy reach. They lead comparatively inactive lives, spending much of the daytime roosting in evergreen trees, in vine-clad thickets, on sunny borders, or even under the snow. They feed early in the morning and at dusk, mainly on the buds of poplars, birches, and apple trees. Their tracks in the snow are easily recognized, as the toes are widely spread and the tracks are in a direct line, one directly in front of another. In severe weather, when the snow is deep, they often dive into the soft drifts and find a snug, well-protected bed a foot or two below the surface. Unless the snow becomes very heavily frosted they can easily burst a way out in the morning, or unless an enemy finds their hiding place. A good shelter is sometimes found under a low branch or pile of brush covered with snow, or under a log banked with snow. Such places serve as either day or night roosts. When there is little or no snow the birds gather for the night in the thickest groves of pines or other conifers, roosting on the branches near the trunk, often a number together in the same tree, where the cover is dense enough to protect them.
Mortality: The periodic scarcity of ruffed grouse, with subsequent recovery to more normal numbers again, has long been a fruitful subject for discussion and study. Their natural enemies have probably served only to keep their increase within check. Their decrease is due to many other causes, mostly chargeable to man. Trapping, snaring, and smoking out roosting places have all been stopped, and shooting has been reduced and periodically stopped. But clearing and cultivating land still goes on, and sportsmen are still increasing. Severe winters and unfavorable breeding seasons have their temporary effects, as do the periodic scarcity of certain insects, on which the young depend for food, and the occasional inroads of heavy flights of goshawks or great horned owls.
But the principal causes of decrease and of excessive mortality are the various diseases to which grouse are subject and the numerous parasites that attack them~ At my request, Dr. Alfred 0. Gross, who has been making an extensive study of this subject for several years, has contributed a condensed, but quite complete, report on the diseases and parasites of the ruffed grouse, which I consider important enough to quote almost verbatim. At least 6 infectious diseases and about 25 parasites have been discovered in the examination of more than 2,000 birds received from a wide range extending from Quebec to Virginia and westward to Minnesota.
Among the infectious diseases he mentions enlargement of the spleen, enteritis (unknown etiology), hepatitis (diseased liver, unknown etiology), enterohepatit.is (blackhead), aspergillosis (a fungus disease chiefly of the respiratory system), and bird pox (an integumentary disease, producing tumorlike growths, generally in the region of the head and mouth). Following is Doctor Gross’s report on external parasites:
“Bird lice are wingless ectoparasitic insects with mouth parts adapted to biting, not sucking. They feed on parts of the feathers and epidermal scales and when present in large numbers cause severe irritation and considerable annoyance to the host. Lice of the genus Gonicotes have been taken most frequently from New England specimens. Grouse collected during the summer months in southeastern New York were heavily infested with the louse E8tkiopterum perplea,u7n.
“Ticks of the species Haemaphysalis Zeporis-pallustr’is have been taken from birds collected throughout the entire range of the ruffed grouse. The heaviest infestations of the parasite were found among grouse living in the heavily wooded sections of northern Maine and along the Canadian Labrador coast.
“The ticks generally attach themselves in the region of the head, usually on the chin and skin around the eyes or on the nape, all places where it is difficult for the host to dislodge them. The ticks vary in size, depending on the relative quantity of sucked blood they contain. Even a few ticks are a discomfort to the birds, and in cases of heavy infestation they become a serious menace, decreasing the vitality and resistance of the grouse and in certain rare cases resulting in the death of the bird. Observers have reported that entire broods of young grouse have been destroyed by ticks.
“It has been demonstrated that the tick may serve as a carrier of such diseases as tularemia, an infectious disease of rabbits, and since the tick Haemaphysalis Zeporis-pallustris is a common ectoparasite of both t.he rabbit and the grouse it may thus eventually prove to be of considerable importance in the life of the grouse. The ticks Haemaphysalis cinnabarina and H. punctata punctata have also been taken from ruffed grouse.
“Live birds received from Canada and others collected in northern Maine were found to be heavily infested with the northern fowl mite Lypony&sw~ .~flvarium. Several individuals of a flock of ruffed grouse kept in captivity at Brunswick, Me., were killed by an infestation of myriads of these blood-sucking mites.
“The hippoboscid fly Ornithoponus americanus is light brown an-I about the size of a common house fly but with longer wings and with a radically different life history and behavior. This fly is very active and difficult to secure since it is quick to disappear among the feathers or it may leave the bird entirely. The flies attack the birds in the region of the heady where they suck the blood of the host and are thus capable of bearing blood parasites and diseases.” The internal parasites are more numerous, of greater importance, and apparently more often prove fatal. Of these Doctor Gross writes:
“The internal parasites are chiefly in the alimentary tract, where they are introduced along with the food, chiefly in the form of eggs and larvae. The life histories of some of the parasites involve a secondary host.
“The crop worm Thominx annulata is an extremely slender worm found beneath the epithelial lining of the crop and gullet. It is from 2 to 3 inches long, but less than the diameter of a hair. The walls of the crop and gullet are very much thickened and thrown into folds and ridges by the presence of this parasite.
“The stomach worm Dispharynw spiralis is one of the most important of the internal parasites. In southern New England and New York State a large percentage of the birds found dead and examined, died from the effects of this nematode. Disph4rynx Spirali8 is between one-fourth and one-half of an inch in length, pointed at both ends, and always rolled up in a characteristic spiral form. It becomes established in the glandular walls of the proventriculus and in advance cases of infection this region is so excessively swollen as to equal the size of the gizzard. The worms become sexually mature in the grouse, and great numbers of eggs are passed through the alimentary tract and eliminated with the droppings. The eggs will not develop if taken directly into the body of another grouse, but the life cycle involves an intermediate host, which Dr. Eloise B. Cram, of the United States Bureau of Animal Industry, working with the New England ruffed grouse investigation, has found to be the pillbug.
“The gizzard worm Cheilospirura spinosa is distributed over a wide range from Maine to Pennsylvania and west to Wisconsin. In Wisconsin it is second only to Ascaridia lineata in the percentages of cases of infection. Gizzard worms are slender, the female obtaining a length of iy2 inches. They are usually found between the chitinous lining and muscular walls of the gizzard. Like Di2 p1saryn~c the life cycle of this nematode worm involves a secondary host, which Doctor Cram has discovcred to be a grasshopper.
“The intestinal worm Ascarid~a lineata is the commonest of all the internal parasites and in certain sections of the range of the ruffed grouse as many as 75 per cent of the birds examined were found to be infected. This worm is comparatively large, ranging from 2 tc 4 inches in length. It is yellowish white and pointed at both ends. Because of its size and abundance it is reported by sportsmen more frequently than all other parasites combined. Ascarids normally reside in the intestine and while there do comparatively little harm aside from absorbing a certain quantity of food. A number of cases have been found, however, where the worms have been outside the intestine among the vital organs and in the body cavity where there was no evidence of shot wounds or scars to indicate that the worms had made their way through artificial openings.
“The hatching of the eggs occurs normally after the eggs are swallowed, and the life cycle does not involve a secondary host. In the larval stages this parasite is capable of doing serious injury to the mucous lining of the alimentary tract, especially in young birds. Some of the larvae may even penetrate the mucous lining and thus be transported by the blood stream to other parts of the body. Furthermore, wounds made by the larvae may open the way to infections of a serious nature.
“The cecal worm Heterakig gallinee is a small nematode parasite usually found in the ceca. Rarely it occurs in the small intestine, colon, and rectum. It is white and very rigid, and the head is bent dorsally, a character that serves to distinguish it from young Ascaridia. The eggs of Heterakis pass in the feces and under favorable conditions of temperature and moisture develop in about 10 days to the point where the eggs contain infective embryos. When the eggs are swallowed by the grouse the embryos are released and then develop into adult worms in the region of the ceca. This parasite is known to have an important relation to the dreaded disease enterohepatitis commonly known among poultrymen and game breeders as blackhead. The eggs of Heterakis may carry for great lengths of time the blackhead germs and thus facilitate the spread of this disease from bird to bird. A species of Contracaecum has been taken from the ruffed grouse.
“Tapeworms, designated also as cestodes, constitute important parasites in the intestines of certain groups of birds. Three species of minor importance have thus far been found in the ruffed grouse.
“A large number of the ruffed grouse examined have been found to be infected with flagellate protozoan parasites. Thus far six species have been identified, of which Histomonas in eleagridid (blackhead) is of the greatest pathological importance. Blackhead is a common and serious disease of poultry and of captive game birds and has also been found in a number of cases of ruffed grouse coll~cted in their natural covers.
“The group Sporozoa is represented by two species of Eimeria, which are responsible for the disease coccidiosis, which is not only important in grouse raised in captivity, but, as in the case of blackhead, is also found in grouse killed in a natural habitat.”
Range: United States, Canada, and Alaska; north to the limit of trees. The species is nonmigratory.
The range of the ruffed grouse extends north to Alaska (Nulato, Tanana, Rampart, Fort Yukon, and the Porcupine River); Mackenzie (Roche Trempe l’Eau, Fort Simpson, Fort Providence, Fort Rae, and probably the Slave River Delta); Manitoba (Hairy Lake, Oxford House, Knee Lake, and York Factory); northern Ontario (Martin Falls, probably Fort Albany, and Moose Factory); Quebec (Lake Mistassini); and Labrador (Hamilton Inlet). East to Labrador (Hamilton Inlet and Sandwich Bay); southeastern Quebec (Wolf Bay, Natasbquan, and Perce) ; Nova Scotia (Baddeck, James River, Musquodoboit, and Halifax); Maine (Calais, Columbia Falls, Mount Desert, and Portland) ; Massachusetts (Boston and Cape Cod); New York (Shelter Island); New Jersey (New Brunswick and Vineland); Maryland (Laurel); Virginia (Bush Hill and Surrey); western North Carolina (Roan Mountain, Mount Mitchell, and Black Mountain); western South Carolina (Caesars Head); and northern Georgia (Brasstown Bald and Grassy Mountain). South to northern Georgia (Grassy Mountain and Cloudland); northeastern Alabama (De Kalb County and Long Island); western Tennessee (Danville); southern Missouri (Holcombe and Current River) ; formerly northwestern Arkansas (Fayetteville) ; formerly eastern Kansas (Manhattan) ; rarely Colorado (Estes Park and Sweetwater Lake); southwestern Wyoming (Fort Bridger); northern Utah (Parleys Park and Barclay); central Idaho (Lardo); and northern California (Oak Bar and Eureka). West to northwestern California (Eureka); Oregon (Anchor, Empire, Eugene, and Tillamook); Washington (Vancouver, Cougar, Olympia, Elkhorn Ranger Station, Elwha River, Ozette Lake, and Neali Bay) ; British Columbia (Alberni, Parksville, Nootka Sound, Fort Rupert, Port Simpson, and Hastings Arm); and Alaska (Juneau, Tanana Crossing, Lake Minchuinina, Tacotna, Akiak, Russian Mission, and Nulato).
Rufied grouse have been extirpated from much of the south-central parts of their range, as in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas. Casual occurrences outside the normal range are not numerous, probably the most unusual being a specimen that was taken near Camden, S. C., on December 27, 1904.
The range as above described is for the entire species, which has, however, been divided into six subspecies. Bonasa u. umbellw~ occupies the territory from Massachusetts, Virginia, and Georgia west to southern Minnesota, eastern Kansas, and northern Arkansas; B. u. togata is found north of umbellus, meeting it on the south in Massachusetts, central New York, northern Michigan, northern Minnesota, and eastern North Dakota, while northward its range extends to Maine, northern Quebec, and northern Ontario. The race B. u. thayeri is confined to Nova Scotia and probably eastern New Brunswick.
The gray ruffed grouse (Bonsea u. umbelloides) is found from western South Dakota west to the coast and Cascade Ranges in British Columbia, north to west-central Mackenzie, and south to northern Colorado and northern Utah; the Oregon ruffed grouse (B. u. eabini) occupies the Pacific coast region from Humboldt County, Calif., north through Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland of British Columbia; and the Yukon ruffed grouse (B. u. yuleonensis) is found in the interior of Yukon and in Alaska.
Egg dates: Southern New England and New York (~wmbellus): 72 records, April 5 to June 10; 36 records, May 9 to 24. New Jersey and Pennsylvania: 15 records, April 20 to June 12; 8 records, May 9 to 27. Maryland to Iowa: 13 records, April 28 to June 4; 7 records, May 6 to 27. Michigan to Minnesota: 11 records, May 2 to June 10. Northern States and southern Canada (togata and thayeri): 52 records, April 14 to June 26; 26 records, May 15 to 28. Mountain regions of Western States and Canada (umbefloides) 45 records, May 1 to July 10; 23 records, May 18 to 29. Oregon and Washington (sabini) : 40 records, April 19 to June 18; 20 records, May 5 to 14.
BONASA UMBELLU5 TOGATA (Linneaus)
CANADA RUFFED GROUSE [Current A.O.U. = Ruffed Grouse]
The ruffed grouse of northern New England and eastern Canada is a grayer bird, with more conspicuous and darker markings below, than typical umbellus. Its range is roughly the same as the spruct, grouse, or “spruce partridge,” from which it is commonly distinguished as the “birch partridge.” William Brewster (1925) well describes its haunts in Maine, as follows:
Ranging from the lowest levels to the crests of the higher mountains It occurs practically everywhere, although seen comparatively seldom among heavy, unmixed spruce timber, and still more rarely In the larch and arbor vitae swamps, so beloved by Spruce Grouse. It likes best to dwell In woods composed of intermingling evergreen and deciduous trees. Far back In these it Is found oftenest about deserted lumber camps, and along old logging roads, where enough sunlight has been let in to stimulate a vigorous growth of underbrush; or along the courses of alder-fringed brooks or runs, where ferns flourish In rich, moist soil; or on river banks freely exposed to the sun, but densely overgrown with cornels, Viburnums, and other berry-bearing shrubs. Near permanent settlements it is given to frequenting wood edges, neglected pastures, and the outskirts of crudely tilled farms, where young spruces, balsams, birches, maples, and alders have been permitted to spring up In crowded thickets about sunny little openings filled with tall bracken. The birds are here reasonably safe from human molestation, except In autumn when everyone possessed of a gun bags as many of them as he possibly can.
Nesting: The nesting habits of this grouse are similar to those of other ruffed grouse. Brewster (1925) describes three nests found in May, 1896, near Lake Umbagog, Me. Of one found on May 14, he says: “This nest was directly under the main stem of a fallen poplar, on a dry knoll wooded with second-growth poplars and birches among which were interspersed a few balsams and spruces. It was 30 yards back from a public road and within 10 yards of an open pasture.” The next day he found one “at the edge of a thicket of alders covering rather wet ground, between two large, buttressed roots of an old stump. Overspreading branches of a small arbor vitae and Viburnum, growing close beside it, screened it so perfectly that the brooding bird could be seen only from the direction whence we happened to approach.” On May 16, another “was in a very exposed situation, quite outside of the border of wild cherry, mountain maple, and other undergrowth that fringed an extensive forest, half-encircling an upland mowing field, and in the field rather than in the forest, although but a yard or two from where the latter ended. Here it was sheltered from observation and from blazing sunlight by only a few dead sticks, the remains of a disintegrated brush fence.”
J. W. Banks, of St. John, New Brunswick, wrote to Major Bendire (1892):
Here with us a very common nesting place is what is called a fallow. This Is a piece of woods chopped down in the fall, to be burned when sufficiently dry, usually in the latter part of May or early in June. Being composed chiefly o~f spruce and fir, It burns very rapidly. I found two nests (or rather the remains, for the eggs were badly scorched) In one of these burnt fallows, and a few feet from each nest the bones of the mother Grouse. A farmer acquaintance told me of finding a nest of this bird, which contained ten eggs, in a fallow he was about to burn, and knowing of another nest with an equal number of eggs, the thought occurred to him to put the eggs in the nest of the other bird that would not be endangered by the fire, and watch developments. lie had the satisfaction of knowing that the eggs were hatched.
Eggs: The eggs of the Canada ruffed grouse are similar to and indistinguishable from the eggs of the more southern race. The measurements of 71 eggs average 39.2 by 30.3 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 44 by 31, 42.2 by 31.5, 36.6 by 28.7, and 38.6 by 28.2 millimeters.
Young: Bendire (1892) quotes the following from Ernest Thompson Seton’s notes:
Every field man must be acquainted with the simulation of lameness, by which many birds decoy or try to decoy intruders from their nests. This is an invariable device of the Partridge, and I have no doubt that It Is quite successful with the natural foes of the bird; indeed, it is often so with man. A dog, as I have often seen, is certain to be misled and duped, and there Is little doubt that a mink, skunk, raccoon, fox, coyote, or wolf, would fare no better. Imagine the effect of the bird’s tactics on a prowling fox; he has scented her as she sets, he is almost upon her, but she has been watching him, and suddenly with a loud “whirr” she springs up and tumbles a few yards before him. The suddenness and noise with which the bird appears causes the fox to he totally carried away; he forgets all his former experience, he never thinks of the eggs, his mind is filled with the thought of the wounded bird almost within his reach; a few more bounds and his meal will be secured. So he springs and springs, and very nearly catches her, and in his excitement he Is led on, and away, till finally the bird flies off, leaving him a quarter of a mile or more from the nest.
Plumages: The molts and plumages are the same as in the other races. There are also both color phases, gray and red. As mentioned elsewhere, these two color phases occur in all the races, but in this and in other gray races the red phase is rarer and less pronounced, the reverse being the case in the red races.
Food: The long list of food given for the ruffed grouse (umbellu8) would apply equally well for this race, with due allowance for the different species of plants and insects available. Manly Hardy, in some notes sent to Major Bendire (1892), says that it feeds not only on the poplar buds but also on the hard old leaves. He writes: I have killed one with its crop filled with such leaves on the 20th of August, an(l they eat them continuously, until the last have fallen In late October. They do this when other food Is abundant. Buds of willow, yellow and white birch, hophorubeam, thorn plums, rosehips, leaves of tame sorrel, of the rock polypod, fungus from birch trees, the seeds of touch-me-nots (Impatfena fulva), wild raisins, and highland cranberries (both species of T’iburaurn) form also a part of their bill of fare. They seem to be especially fond of beechnuts. I have a record of finding seventy-six in one bird’s crop and over sixty in another.
Ora W. Knight (1908) says:
In the winter they “bud” seeming to prefer the yellow and white birches, and the poplar, but also eating spruce, fir, pine, maple and in fact many other buds.
Brewster (1925) writes:
To the best of my knowledge the Birch Partridges of the Uinbagog Region never eat the spills of coniferous trces, although subsisting almost wholly on the buds of deciduous ones during rather more than half of the year. In late spring and early summer their food is gleaned mostly from the surface of forest-shaded ground and consists largely of insects and low-growing herbaceous foliage of various kinds. Even whore it is most plentiful the birds seldom linger anywhere to seek it, hut continue to advance, picking up a leaf or grub now here, next there, so daintily and infrequently that they often ramble on slowly for a quartem- of a mile or more before filling their crops. They are somewhat less dainty and fastidious whelm feasting in late August on the fruit of low blueberry bushes, while in September I have often seen them alight at sunset in cornel or Viburnum (especially V. epulus) bushes on river-banks and literally gorge themselves in the course of a few minutes, almost without change of foothold, on the berries which these shrubs commonly bear in such profuse and crowded clusters. Later in the season the pale orange fruit of the mountain ash is similarly dealt with whenever it can be had plentifully, which is not ofizener than every ether year. The glowing red berries of the black alder are also eaten freely in late autumn. The birds seem to have little or no liking for oats, but are exceedingly fond of buckwheat, and to obtain it will venture out fifty yards or more from neighboring coverts into stubble fields where it has recently been grown and harvested.
Behavior: Illustrating the tameness of ruffed grouse under primitive conditions, Brewster (1925) i-elates his experience with them in the Umbagog region early in the seventies, as follows: At first I undertook to hunt them with a setter, and to shoot them only on wing, as lied been my practice in coverts nearer home. My goed dog found and pointed them readily, but was evidently not a little puzzled to comprehend why they should stand crnspicuously upright in open ground, or on mossy logs, regarding him with seeming indifference from a distance of only a few yards, instead of rising far in advance, or crouching unseen in dense brush, as had been the unvarying habit of all birds of their kind with which he had had previous experience. When I stepped in ahead of the staunch setter with the intention of flushing the Grouse, their behavior was still more surprising especially if, as oftdn happened, there wore as many as five or six together. For instead of rising promptly on wing as I wished, and expected them to (10, they would begin a snickering outcry almost precisely like that of a fled Squirrel, no(l their heads slightly a few times, and then start off at a slow walk with ci-ests erect and perhaps also widespread tails, shaking their heads and necks, and twitching their expanded ruffs at each deliberate step, and continuing unceasingly to utter their derisive and unseemly snickering. This was mast likely to happen in a narrow cart-path tunneled through tile forest, or on the outskirts of some woodland opening. In either case the birds had seldom far to go before reaching fallen tree-tops, or dense evergreen thickets, from which it was difficult if not impossible to dislodge them, at least by the aid of a dog, who would never flush his birds. Into such sanctuaries they com monly skulked on foot, if not too closely pressed. Even when I forced them to take to wing by running after them, they rarely went more than a few yards before alighting in a tree, or dropping again to the ground, over which they might continue to hasten, If much alarmed, until it was useless to follow them farther.
After this and several similar experiences, he learned that the only way to secure any of these unsophisticated grouse was to “pot” them in the “time-honored fashion of local hunters” by shooting off their heads as they sat on trees, bushes, or logs, or on the ground. More than once he was able to bag all the birds in a flock, shooting one at a time, while the survivors refused to fly. While hunting for ducks one day in a boat, he saw a grouse sitting on a log. “When I finally shot her,” he says, “the report of the gun started six others, hitherto unseen, although close about her. Flying only a few yards, they alighted in trees and bushes within plain view, and remained there gazing at us while, sitting in the bow of the boat, I loaded and fired until the last bird had fallen.”
Such shooting was unsportsmanlike, of course, unless the bunter gave the birds a chance by using a rifle and shooting at the head. It was the only method in those days, but is no longer necessary now in any but the more remote regions, for the birds have become educated and have learned to give the sportsman a chance to show his skill. Good sport may now be had with dog and gun in these same woods.
Fall: Brewster’s (1925) very full and exceedingly interesting account of the Canada ruffed grouse contains several references to a migratory movement or an erratic autumn wandering, similar, perhaps, to their queer behavior during the restless “crazy season ” that we have noted elsewhere.. I quote a story, one of three similar incidents, told him by Luman Sargent:
After spending an October night (before 1S70) in the old log-camp of Middle Dam and leaving it at about sunrise the next morning, he had gone only a short distance into neighbouring woods when he saw a Partridge on a iog and shot it. Startled by the report of his gun so many birds of the same species rose far and near on wing, one after another, that for half a minute the air seemed full of them as far as the eye could range through trees and brushwood. There could not have been less than one hundred of them, he said. When followed they all kept moving on by successive flights in the same direction, and to the southward. They were so restless and shy that he had difficulty in getting near them and was able to kill only a few more before losing track of them altogether.
Winter: Ernest Thompson Seton (Ernest E. Thompson, 1890), referring to the habits of the ruffed grouse in Manitoba, says:
It seems to be the normal habit of this bird to roost in a snow drift during the coldest weather. The wonderful non-conductivity of the snow is well known, but may be forcibly Illustrated by the fact that although the thermometer regIsters 850 below zero, the 10 inches of snow which fell before the severe frost came, has effectually kept the wet earth in the woods from freezing, although the temperature has been at or below zero for over a week. In view of these facts it is easy to understand that the grouse in the snow drift are quite comfortable during the coldest nights. In general the bird will be found to run about before burrowing into the drift; each makes its own bed, usually 10 or 20 feet from its neighbor; they usually go down a foot or so and along 2 feet; they pass the whole night in one bed if undisturbed, as the large amount of dung left behind would indicate. They do not come out at the ingress, but burst through the roof of their cot at one side; they do not usually go straight ahead and out, because their breath during the whole night has been freezing into an icy wall just before their nostrils.
BONASA UMBELLUS UMBELLOIDES (Douglas)
GRAY RUFFED GROUSE [Current A.O.U. = Ruffed Grouse]
The name gray rulfecl grouse describes very well the characters on which this race of the ruffed grouse is based; it is a decidedly gray bird. Its range extends from Mackenzie south through the Rocky Mountain valleys and east to the western edge of the Great Plains. The birds found in Manitoba, of which we collected a good series, are intermediate between this and togata. It intergrades with ,sabini where their ranges meet.
Harry S. Swarth (1924) found it “abundant throughout the poplar woods of the lowlands” in the Skeena River region of northern British Columbia, where the birds are “less grayish, more brownish” than typical umbelloides. In the Stikine River region he (1922) found the birds “relatively gray colored, but not so ashy” as the birds from the Yukon region (y’ukonensis) ; they are practically the same as umbello?,des from Alberta.
In the Glacier National Park, Mont., Mrs. Florence M. Bailey (1918) found this grouse “in the pines and aspen thickets of the eastern slope and also in the dense hemlock woods of the western slope of the mountains.” IMI. P. Skinner has sent me the following notes on its haunts in the Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.:
This grouse is more likely to be in the aspen groves than Richnrdson’s grouse is. In fact, it is quite apt to prefer the aspen groves, but it Is also found in forests of fir, mixed aspen and fir, lodgepole pine, mixed aspen and lodgepole, and in the spruce forests. Although this grouse is rather scarce in Yellowstone National Park, it frequents the forest in all sections between 6,500 and 8,500 feet elevation, but I do not find them in the timber-line forests. It seems to be in heavy, thick standing forests, open forests, and thick sapling growth. Occasionally it is found out on the grasslands, but not so much as Richardson’s grouse. Still, I think the gray ruffed grouse rather prefers an open stand of trees, especially if berries are present.
Courtship: Skinner says that “as early as March 20 the males begin to strut and court the females. One day I found a pair near Tower Falls. The female sat as if roosting on a horizontal pine branch, 4 feet from the ground, in a clump of thick-growing saplings; a male, with ruffs spread and tail spread in an upright fan, strutted about below. He may have been drumming, although I did not actually hear him.”
J. H. Riley (1912) heard it drumming in the fall in Alberta; he says: “When we first made camp, September 5th, and for about a week thereafter, we seldom heard this bird drum, but before we departed, September 22nd, one used to drum at intervals throughout the day, though the weather was cloudy with rain and later snow.”
Thomas T. McCabe writes to me that at Indian Point Lake, near Barkerville, British Columbia, he heard one drumming for many weeks, not on the usual log, but on the large sloping root of a big spruce on the lake shore, 175 yards away from a nest he had found; he watched him drum at the same spot 10 days after the nest had been robbed.
Nesting: Mr. McCabe very kindly collected and sent to me this nest and the 10 very handsome eggs it contained. He took it on May 27, 1929, at Barkerville, British Colunibia, and he writes to me that the nest was in heavy, open, mixed, second-growth spruce and balsam (Ab4e8 laaiocarpa), which had nearly the dignity of primeval forest, and was carpeted with our universal green moss. It was wedged between two roots of a 9-Inch balsam, and sunken to the extent that the top was about level with the moss. There was absolutely no busby or herbaceous concealment. The brooding bird left in each case when we were from 15 to 20 feet away, but it did not approach us. It kept at a distance of about 40 feet, running, crouched low, whlaing like an eager hound, and then flew away. The leaves lining the nest are Popalus trcrnuloidcs, seldom far to seek here, even in the deep timber.
Major Bendire (1892) mentions a nest found in Montana., “under the trunk of a fallen cottonwood tree, which rested about a foot from the ground. Otherwise the nest was not concealed in any way.” Another nest near Nulato, Alaska. was “found in an old willow stump.” In Yellowstone National Park, Mr. Skinner records two nests in his notes; one was in a grove of quaking aspens, under a fallen tree; the other was at the foot of a lodgepole pine, a hollow in the pine needles.
Eggs: The eggs of the gray ruffed grouse are practically indistinguishable from those of its eastern relatives. The measurements of 55 eggs average 40.3 by 29.8 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 43 by 31.5, 38 by 30, and 40.7 by 28.7 millimeters.
Young: Swarth(1922) found two broods of young in the Stikine River region, of which he writes:
The young of one brood were still unable to fly. Our first knowledge of their presence was derived from the mother bird, who barst forth from the bushes and charged us furiously. She kept tail and ruff widely spread, the head crest depressed. She was mewling in a very catlike fashion, and also hissing from time to time. There was an occasional faint peep from the grass nearby, and once I caught a glimpse of a yellow chick slipping away through the shubbery, but the young were too agile to he captured.
The young of the second brood were somewhat larger and able to fly. This second mother tried to toll us away from the chicks by feigning a broken wing; the noise she made was not unlike the whining of a small puppy. Her actions, all together. gave the impression that she was frightened rather than angry. However, if frightened, she still did not desert her trust, hut remained nearby, dragging herself back and forth across the road, with wings dropping and all her feathers pressed closely against her body. Her tail was not spread nor were her ruffs displayed at nay time, all in striking contrast to the Ijehavier of the first bird that morning.
Plumages: The molts and plumages are similar to those of the eastern bird. It has a red phase, which apparently occurs about as often as the gray phase occurs in the eastern birds. Swarth (1924) collected two red-tailed birds in a series of 14 in the Skeena River region. Ernest Thompson Seton (1885) has described the red phase, as it occurs in Manitoba, as follows: “In general appearance this bird differs but little from the well known Bonasa umbellus umbelioide8, but it is distinguished by being more decidedly marked: thus the bars on the belly are complete and nearly black: and by having copper-colored touches on the hack, the subterminal tail-band and the ruff a rich, iridescent, coppery red.” He says that about 10 per cent of the birds have copper rulEs and only about 20 per cent are pure urn].’ elloides.
Food: Skinner says of its food in the Yellowstone: “In spring, they eat the buds of aspens. In summer, they frequent berry patches and sometimes visit small openings for grasshoppers. In winter, they are said to eat mistletoe berries.” In the Stikine region Swarth (1922) found that the food was practically all vegetable matter, consisting of leaves and stems of Populus, Galiwim, Artemisia, and Vilurnu.’n, with a few berries.
Behavior: Skinner contributes the following notes on the behavior of the gray ruffed grouse:
These are resident birds, remaining throughout the year in one locality, and I see no evidence that they even move up and down the mountains, as other resident species do. But in winter they live mostly in the treetops, and we do not see them on the ground much before March 15 or April 1. Although these birds have the same habits and probably the same disposition toward their environment as the eastern ruffed grouse originally did, they have retained their comparative tameness toward man under the protection accorded In Yellowstone National Park. My notes are full of references to them as “quite tame” and “very tame,” but occasionally I find one that is wild. The tame ones are recorded in all places, at every elevation within the bird~s range, and at all seasons. This unsuspicious attitude extends also to men on horseback, the grouse sitting or remaining in their tracks while the horseman rides by, althougb sometimes a grouse will move around to the opposite side of a tree from the intruder. I have even been permitted to ride past a grouse within 5 feet. At times, especially in autumn when they frequent the roads, the grouse often run across in front of a horse and even apparently under his nose. I have seen my horse almost step on a grouse. Sometimes they run ahead of my horse down the trail. Even a mother with young Is often extraordinarily tame, and she does not make use of the broken-wing tactics nearly so often as unprotected grouse do. Often a bird springs directly from the ground to a tree overhead and allows me to pass directly under. Still, the gray ruffed grouse is not so apt to come about houses and hotels as Richardson’s grouse.
BONASA UMBELLUS SABINI (Douglas)
OREGON RUFFED GROUSE [Current A.O.U. = Ruffed Grouse]
In the humid coast belt, west of the Cascades, in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, we have the darkest, most richly colored, and one of the handsomest races of the ruffed grouse. The grouse of the southern Alleghenies are quite richly colored, but they will not compare in this respect with these western birds, which Baird, Brewer, and Ridgway (1905) describe as follows:
The upper parts are dark orange chestnut, mottled with black, the cordate light spots very distinct. The feathers of the breast are strongly tinged with reddish-yellow; those of the sides marked with broad and conspicuous bars of black, Instead of the obsolete brown. The under tail-coverts are orange-chestnut, within distinct bars of black, and an angular terminal blotch of white. All the light brown blotches and edgings of the eastern variety are here dark brown or black. The jugular band between the ruffles is very conspicuously black.
They say of its haunts, quoting J. K. Lord:
Dr. Cooper also speaks of this grouse as very abundant everywhere about the borders of woods and clearings. It was common near the forests east of the Cascade Mountains up to the 49th degree. In the spring their favorite haunt Is In the vicinity of stagnant pools, or in the brush around a marsh in which the wild swamp-crab, the black birch, and the alder grow.
William L. Finley (1896) writes:
They are generally found on low land, a river bottom or along some small creek, but in times of high water, they will go to higher ground. I have often seen them when the water is high, in some small tree or bush, when the water was several feet deep under them, and around them for a half mile. In a boat, at such times, one can row right under the bird, or within a few feet of it. A great many are killed along the river bottoms in this way by hunters.
Courtship: The drumming performance of this grouse is apparently the same as with the eastern birds, but “Mr. Lord also states that he has seen the males of this species fighting furiously during the pairing season. Ruffing up their necks, with their heads and backs almost in a straight line, and with wings dropped, they circle round and round each other, striking and pecking until the van quished gives in, and the victor mounts upon a log and proceeds to drum furiously.”
Nesting: W. Leon Dawson (1909) says: “At the foot of a maple in some swampy thicket, or close beside a fallen log, the female scrapes a slight depression in the earth, lining it roughly with dead leaves and a few small twigs.~~
In some notes sent to me by D. E. Brown, he describes four Washington nests. One was at the foot of an elder tree in an old river bed, in the dead leaves, with no cover at all. Two nests, found April 19, were in open woods, under the ends of logs. And one, found May 6, was at the side of a log at the edge of large woods. In all cases the eggs were laid on dead leaves. Bendire (1892) describes a nest found on Vancouver Island as “a slight hollow in the ground scratched out by the bird, placed under the fallen branches of a spruce tree. The cavity was lined with dead leaves and spruce needles, as well as a few feathers. This nest was found close to a small creek and was well concealed.”
William L. Finley (1896) reports a nest found by G. D. Peck in Oregon that contained eight eggs of the sooty grouse and seven eggs of the ruffed grouse; the sooty grouse was flushed from the nest. He has also sent me a photograph of a nest containing eight eggs of the ruffed grouse and three eggs of the ring-necked pheasant.
Eggs: The eggs are indistinguishable from those of other ruffed grouse, though they may average slightly darker in color and somewhat more often spotted. The sets will average smaller in number. The measurements of 58 eggs average 41 by 30.2 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 44 by 31.5, 43.5 by 32, 38 by 29, and 40.9 by 28.2 millimeters.
Plumages: Confirming what I have said elsewhere about the presence of both color phases in all races of the ruffed grouse, H. S. Swarth (1912), referring to a series collected oi~ Vancouver Island, says:
The dichronaatism of the species is very apparent in the series collected, the gray and the red-colored birds being conspicuously different. Those in the gray phase are quite uniform in color and markings, but the reddish birds show considerable variation. The former all have black ruffs, and gray tails with a black subterminal band. Of the reddish birds some have red ruffs, some black, and others are variously intermediate. Some have a gray tail with a red band, some a red tail with a dark band, and one a red tail with a darker red band. These different styles of coloration are not indicative of age, sex, or season, for both phases are represented among adults and imniatures of both sexes.
Food: The food of the Oregon ruffed grouse is similar to that of its eastern relatives, differing only with the available supply of berries, seeds, leaves, fruits, and insects. William H. Kobb~ (1900) writes: “They are extremely fond of the small wild crab apples (Pyrus rivularis) which grow in the low, damp woods. The birds visit these trees very early in the morning and late in the evening, at which times they may be found silently perched upon the branches.”
Mr. Dawson (1909) adds: “They are fond of the fruit of the Cascara, which they gather from the ground; and wild crab-apples are favorites in season. These last ripen about the middle of October, and from that time until the alders bud again these Grouse are often to be found in evergreen trees.”
ehavior: In general the habits of the Oregon ruffed grouse do not differ from those of the rest of the species, except so far as they are affected by differences in environment. In the wilder sections they are quite unsophisticated.
Enemies: J. 11. Bowles (1901) tells the following remarkable story:
The carnivorous habits of chipmunks as related in the recent Issues of The Condor were very interesting to me, though I believe mice ore far more guilty. Mice are a perfect pest to ground-builders in this country, as they burrow into the ground several yards away from the nest and then tunnel until they reach the bottom of the nest.
They then dig upward into the nest and carry the eggs into their tunnel to eat. t have often found broken and unbroken eggs several feet from the nest in a burrow. I have never actually seen mice do this, but the tunnels are much too small for anything else. The Huffed Grouse (Bonasa umbeflus sabin4) are the worst sufferers that I have yet found, and their eggs are the largest that I have seen destroyed in this manner. All the small ground-builders suffer more or less.
Game: Dawson (1909) writes:
From the point of view of the sportsman, this bird is not to be compared with the Huffed Grouse of the Eastern States. Its cover is too abundant, and it does not take the discipline which has educated the wily “partridge.” It seldom allows the dog to come to a correct point, usually flushing into the nearest small tree, where It sits peeping and perkiug like an overgrown chicken, regarding now the dog and now tile hunter. Pot-shooting the birds under these circumstances can hardiy be called sport, but their fondness for dense thickets often makes it the only way In which they can be obtained.
Edwyn Sandys (1904) evidently agrees with Dawson, for he says:
In British Columbia the sport, as found, could not compare with that of the East. Those who know the wonderful western province ‘viii readily guess why. In many places the trees almost rival the famous big conifers of California, and they are crowded together as thickly as it Is possible for such mighty trunks to stand. Frequently the lower spaces are filled with ferns of such size and luxuriance as to suggest semitropic lands rather than a portion of Canada. In such cover the keenest of guns can do little or nothing. The writer Is over six feet tail, but in that cover he felt like a veritable babe In the wood. The size of the firs was almost oppressive: but the ferns: ye gods! such ferns. Ia places they grow like the big western corn, close and rank, towering a yard or more above one’s head. Among them, grouse after grouse can buzz away unseen, while, in a(lditiOfl, the tremendous fronds combine to form a most baffling light.
BONASA UMBELLUS THAYERI (Bangs)
NOVA SCOTIA RUFFED GROUSE [Current A.O.U. = Ruffed Grouse]
The ruffed grouse of Nova Scotia had long been recognized and wns finally described by Outram Bangs (1912) under the name B. u. thayeri, given in honor of Col. John E. Thayer. He designates it as similar to Bonas~ umbeflus togata (Liun.) but general color of upper parts darker, more dusky or sooty, less grayish; the whole underparts (except throat) heavily and regularly banded with dusky, the dark bands much blacker and much more boldly contrasted against the ground color: less blended.
B. urnbeltua tim pert presents two phases of coloration, which are both very dark, and not very different; a phase in which there is much dull chestnut or burnt sienna in the upper parts and tail and another in which the tail is wholly dull gray and black and the upper parts are but little varied with dark chestnut markings. The color and markings of the underparts is not different in the two phases, except that very reddish birds sometimes have the bases of the feathers of the upper chest dull chestnut instead of dusky.
Bangs says further in regard to it:
Some years ago I was accustomed to go shooting every autumn in Nova Scotia, and each season I was more and more impressed by the very dark coloration of the Ruffed Grouse killed there. I therefore made into skins during my last t~vo shooting trips to this province a series of sixteen Grouse.
It is probable that the new form is confined to the almost insular province of Nova Scotia, although I cannot be sure about the bird from the coast of New Brunswick as the specimens I have before me are in worn midsummer plumage, and not comparable with the Nova Scotia specimens, all of which were taken in October.
We have no reason to think that the habits of this grouse, or any of the chapters in its life history, are essentially different from those of its neighbors in other parts of Canada where the environment is similar.
Eggs: The eggs are indistinguishable from those of other ruffed grouse. The measurements of 47 eggs average 40.5 by 30.5 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 44 by 33, 37.9 by 30, and 40 by 29.2 millimeters.
BONASA UMBELLUS YUKONENSIS (Grinnell)
YUKON RUFFED GROUSE [Current A.O.U. = Ruffed Grouse]
The ruffed grouse of the interior of Alaska and Yukon is, according to Dr. Joseph Grinnell (191~),the “largest and palest of the races of Bonasa uinbellus; nearest like B. u. umbelloides, but general cobra tion of light-colored parts of plumage more ashy, and pattern of dark markings finer.” He says also that it: occurs along the Yukon River Valley down nearly to its mouth, as also In adjacent wooded areas west even into the Seward Peninsula. As with the other subspecies of the Ruffed Grouse, yukonevnsi8 shows two color phases. Three out of the eleven specimens at hand have pale rusty tails: hut even in this “red” phase the race is distinguishable from the corresponding phase in the other subspecies by paler tone of coloration. Typical umbefloides is still a gray bird, hut its grayness is more leaden, and its browns and blacks are deeper. The extreme fineness of the intricate pattern of barring and mottling on the plumage is in yukoaensia an appreciable character.
Dr. E. W. Nelson (1887) writes of its haunts:
Like the Spruce Grouse, and sharing with the latter its range in Northern Alaska, this bird is found everywhere where ~vooded land occurs, reaching the head of Norton Sound and vicinity of Bering Straits, following the belts of timber as they approach the sea in this portion of the Territory. It is not uncommon in the vicinity of Nulato, where it frequents the deep spruce growths, and feeds exclusively upon the buds of these trees, its flesh being tainted in consequence. Dali found it nesting there in May, and a set of eggs was found In a willow stump. Like the Spruce Grouse, this bird is found wherever spruces occur, and both species range well into the Kaviak Peninsula, so that they are found wIthin a very short distance of Bering Straits.