American Game Birds

Illustrating More Than One Hundred Species In Natural Colors

By Chester A. Reed

Page 50

RUFFED GROUSE (Bonasa umbellus umbellus). From the sportsman's point of view these grouse are quite generally regarded as the king of American game birds. Of good size, measuring about 16 in. in length, they inhabit wooded districts where a quick eye and cool head are necessary to bring them down, especially since they start with a thunderous rush, that often proves the undoing of the novice, and speed swiftly away behind the sheltering tree trunks.

     Several races of Ruffed Grouse are recognized, but the sportsman need concern himself with but one, since the chief differences are slight ones in the matter of size and shade of coloration. They are found throughout the northern half of the United States and the southern half of Canada in suitable wooded localities.

     Sometimes a brood may remain together through the winter, but different broods never unite to form a flock as quail do. In spring the males daily resort to favorite logs or rocks and send forth their challenging drumming. This is produced by the bird standing erect, with tail spread and nearly horizontal, and rapidly fanning the wings forward in front of the breast, the beating of the air producing a thump, thump, that, increasing in velocity, soon assumes the sound of a loud rapid drumming. They also strut about with head thrown back, ruff opened to form a complete collar and tail elevated over the back and spread to its fullest extent. Their nests are depressions in the leaves under the shelter of logs, stones or tree trunks; the eight to sixteen eggs are buff colored, unmarked. The little chicks follow their mother immediately after emerging from the eggs. If disturbed, at a warning call each chick hides among the leaves and the mother runs away, whining and trailing the wings as though badly wounded, in an effort to lead the intruder away from her little flock. This ruse usually works with people and it must almost infallibly pass if they are discovered by foxes or other predatory animals. Birds in unsettled portions of the north are not at all shy, are in fact almost as stupid as Spruce Partridge. Often called "Partridge" in the north and "Pheasant " in the south.