Comical Ruffed Grouse

Vickie Emms

Anola, MB., Canada

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This Ruffed Grouse was being followed around a spruce tree by a Whitetail Deer (secondary photo). The deer sniffed the trail of the grouse and kept going till a complete circle was completed. They were a joy to watch.
Ruffed Grouse
The scientific name for the Ruffed Grouse is Bonasa umbellus. Both terms are from the Latin: Bonasa means good when roasted and umbellus, a sunshade. This refers to the ruff or dark-coloured neck feathers that are particularly large in the male. When he is in display before the female, these are erected and surround his head almost like an umbrella. By nodding his head and ruffs, and spreading his tail and strutting, the male identifies himself to the female and encourages her advances.

The male Ruffed Grouse is about the size of a bantam chicken and weighs about 500 g. The females are smaller. Unlike the chicken, the grouse has a broad flat tail that is usually held down but that may be erected and spread into a half circle.

The dappled and barred plumage ranges in colour from pale grey through sombre red to rich mahogany. In the east, most grouse are predominantly grey, although some are red. Greys are in the majority in the central parts of the continent, and on the west coast most grouse are reddish brown.

The colours worn by the grouse are related to their habitat: the dark-coloured grouse inhabit dark forest, as on the coast; grey grouse live in lighter bush. This camouflage helps protect the grouse from their predators.

Males are hard to tell from females at a distance, but they are larger with larger ruffs and a longer tail. In the male the broad band of dark colour in the tail is usually unbroken.

The Ruffed Grouse is frequently called the “partridge.” This leads to confusion with the Gray, or Hungarian, Partridge, which was introduced to Canada from Europe. The Ruffed Grouse is only distantly related to the Gray Partridge, which is a bird of open areas, not woodlands.
Photographed in Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba Canada.
Canon Rebel XTi; Sigma 150-55mm lens
F/6.3; /1600 sec.; ISO400; 374mm

Oh, There You Are

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