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Beware the Grouse!

February 22, 2013

You wouldn’t guess by looking at them, but Ruffed Grouse can be very scary birds. When an incensed female bursts out of the brush – right at your feet as you run by – well, it can certainly make your heart beat faster. Her chicks scatter in the bush but the brave little female runs ahead “whining” and dragging a wing – all in an effort to entice you to follow her rather than her fleeing young. The hen performing this distraction display can probably escape easily enough, but she is still taking a risk to protect her flightless young.

Safe in the trees

The “drumming” of the male Ruffed Grouse (whump….whump…whump..whump.whump) is distinctive and made by the male beating the air with his wings. He ruffs up his ruff, flares his tail, erects his crest and stands on a log and performs his tattoo to attract females.

Ruffed Grouse head

Grouse have great feet. The outer edge of each toe has a row of tiny projections that allows the bird to walk on the snow. In winter, I often see grouse in deciduous trees, nibbling away on tree buds. Grouse taste good. I know of coyotes that have learned to “drive” grouse into fencing. Even if the bird does not break its neck upon impact, the coyote stands a better chance of catching the grouse as it hits the fence. The local Cooper’s Hawks often enjoy a good meal of Ruffed Grouse. I too have feasted on grouse – after they have hit a window and died.

Ruffed Grouse

Apparently Grouse dive into snow to roost. They will have had a hard time of diving into the snow around here lately. The snow has had a very hard crust of ice and then has mostly disappeared (although it is snowing heavily right now.) The grouse I find lately seem to prefer roosting in thick evergreen cover.

So, keep an eye out for Ruffed Grouse – they are another interesting winter bird of the Kootenays.

Grouse Tracks in Snow

all photos and writing in this blog copyright Joanne Siderius

2 Comments
  1. Susie Hammond permalink

    We once met an “attack grouse” while hiking on Cortes Island. It was actually quite a scary experience!

    • Hen Grouse have no fear! and they burst from the woods so that the startle effect is quite …startling!

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