Ruffed Grouse

Bonasa umbellus

MDF, Creative Commons BY-SA
  • TETRAONIDAE
  • Galliformes
  • Gallo de collar
  • Gélinotte huppée
Introduction

The Ruffed Grouse is a round-bodied, mottled-brown, crow-sized bird found in aspen forests, but in parts of the United States, found in young, open, mixed deciduous-coniferous forests, also in Alaska, through most of Canada, and the northern United States. 

Fun Fact

Cyclic invasions of Northern Goshawks from Canada have caused declines in the Ruffed Grouse population in the Great Lakes area.

Laura Erickson
Bird Sounds
© Lang Elliot, Nature Sound Studio
Vocalization

A loud "chuck" and soft "clucks." Also listen for the drumming of the male’s wings during spring courtship.

Appearance Description

A round-bodied, mottled-brown, crow-sized bird usually seen walking on the forest floor.

Range Map
Kenn Kaufman
Range Distribution

Found from Alaska through most of Canada and the northern United States, dipping farther south in the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains (with isolated populations in other mountain ranges in the United States).

Habitat

In most parts of range, found in aspen forests, but in parts of the United States, found in young, open, mixed deciduous-coniferous forests.

Feeding

Capable of digesting very fibrous material. Eats aspen tree buds and twigs in the winter, and seeds, fruits, berries, and leaves in the summer. Uses several techniques to cope with harsh winters in the north temperate and subarctic regions, including frequent feeding and using fat reserves to decrease heat loss and satisfy greater metabolic needs.

Reproduction

Generally nests on the ground at the base of a tree, but also in deadfalls, brushpiles, or at the base of a shrub. Produces only one brood per season, and the clutch size range is 9-14 eggs. Nests are occasionally parasitized by Wild Turkeys and Ring-necked Pheasants. Brood mixing and adoption sometimes occur. Chicks are quite mature when they hatch and usually leave the nest after less than a day.

Migration
  • 6.8 million
  • 6.8 million
  • 6.8 million now, 15 million 40 years ago
  • 54 percent in 40 years
Population Status Trends
Conservation Issues
  • Threats: Logging of aspen forests and loss of early successional forests are the major contributors to the decline of this species. Successional habitat needs disturbance, for example, fire, wind, flooding in order to exist. In the eastern United States, many of the areas that are in early successional forest are less suitable for grouse because of deer overbrowsing vegetation.

  • Outlook: The fate of this species is closely tied to the acreage devoted to aspen forests and early successional forests in its range. Decisions regarding logging, forest protection, and forest management practices will determine its future.
What You Can Do
  • Protect the Boreal Forest
    Promote conservation of the Canadian boreal forest by supporting the Boreal Songbird Initiative that works to save Canadian boreal habitat for all birds, specifically by fighting inappropriate logging, mining, and drilling, and by promoting the designation of protected areas.

  • Support Sustainable Forests
    Push for the protection, restoration and expansion of large forest blocks to sustain the full range of forest-loving species, especially the Canadian boreal forest where logging, mining and drilling are taking their toll. Back active management (including burns) to meet specific habitat requirements on government-owned lands and incentives for active forest management on private lands. Promote deer management that allows for the maintenance of forest understory plants.
More Information
Natural History References
Conservation Status References

Kaufman, Kenn. Guía de campo a las aves de Norteamérica. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.

Rusch, D.H., S. DeStefano, M.C. Reynolds, and D. Lauten (2000). Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus). The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Birds of North America, Inc. Retrieved from The Birds of North America Online database: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/BNA/account/Ruffed_Grouse/