Ruffed grouse

Ruffed grouse
Bonasa umbellus

Photo by Guy Monty (Flickr)

Common name:
ruffed grouse (en); galinha-montesa-de-colar (pt); gélinotte huppée (fr); grévol engolado (es); kragenhuhn (de)

Order Galliformes
Family Phasianidae

This species is found throughout most of Canada, and also in Alaska and the northern United States as far south as Georgia, Utah and northern California.

These birds are 40-50 cm long and have a wingspan of 50-64 cm. They weigh 450-750 g.

The ruffed grouse is found in temperate, boreal and mountain forests, typically in quiet areas with dense cover, preferring mixed deciduous forests rich in aspen, poplar and birch. They also occur in thick scrublands and sheltered swamps.

They are omnivorous, with a varied diet including leaves, buds, seeds, berries and fruits, as well as insects and other invertebrates. In winter, they mainly eat buds, particularly aspen catkin buds which are rich in sugar and protein. Poplar and birch buds are also frequently eaten. In the spring, the ruffed grouse feeds on new leaves and shoots of a variety of plants, including trees, scrubs and dandelions. Ripening fruits and berries, such blackberries and blueberries, form the basis of their diet in the summer and the chicks feed on small insects and spiders.

The ruffed grouse breeds in April-July. The males performs a noisy courtship display involving drumming and rapid wing flapping. They can mate with several females during the breeding season and have no further part in the breeding process. The nest is a hollow scrape in the ground, lined with dry leaves, pine needles and some feathers, usually located at the base of a tree or near a fallen log in an area which is well camouflaged by low vegetation. There the female lays 9-12 buff-coloured eggs with a few reddish speckles, which she incubates alone for 23-26 days. The chicks leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching and are immediately able to feed themselves. They fledge about 12 days after hatching.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population estimated at 8 million individuals. This species is a popular game bird in most of its range but the current levels of hunting are not believed to have an impact on the population. The ruffed grouse has undergone a small decrease over the last decades, mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation through rural and suburban development.

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