Ruffed GrouseBonasa umbellus

adult (gray)
Christian Artuso/VIREO
adult (rufous)
Claude Nadeau/VIREO
Tom J. Ulrich/VIREO
adult male, displaying
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
Ruffed Grouse


16-19" (41-48 cm). A brown or gray-brown, chicken-like bird with slight crest, fan-shaped, black-banded tail, barred flanks, and black "ruffs" on sides of neck.


Female gives soft hen-like clucks. In spring displaying male sits on a log and beats the air with his wings, creating a drumming sound that increases rapidly in tempo.


alarm call (female)
alarm call (male)
distraction squeals (female)


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


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


This secretive grouse is easy to find in winter, when snow covers the ground and the birds fly up into the treetops to feed on buds and catkins. The summer diet, much more varied, consists of insects, seeds, fruits, and even an occasional small snake or frog. Long one of the most highly esteemed game birds in North America, the Ruffed Grouse can withstand hunting pressure as long as suitable habitat exists. But in many areas forests are maturing, eliminating the undergrowth this species needs; where this is happening, reintroduced Wild Turkeys are increasing and the grouse are decreasing.


9-12 pinkish-buff eggs, plain or spotted with dull brown, in a shallow depression lined with leaves and concealed under a bush.

Similar Species

adult male, displaying

Sooty Grouse

20" (51cm) The shy, subtly plumaged birds of western pine and fir forests know as Blue Grouse were split into two species in 2006. The Pacific coastal species, Sooty Grouse (D.

adult male, displaying

Dusky Grouse

15 1/2 -21" (39-53 cm). A large grouse.

adult male

Spruce Grouse

15-17" (38-43 cm). A dark, chicken-like bird with a fan-shaped tail. Male dusky gray-brown, with red comb over eye, black throat and upper breast, white-spotted sides, chestnut-tipped tail.


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