Comprehensive Guide to selected species of:
Birds of the Boreal Forest « back to Guide
Ruffed Grouse Bonasa umbellus
Family: Pheasants and Grouse, Phasianidae
Audio: Martyn Stewart, © Naturesound.org
An estimated 51% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.
Description 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.
Habitat Deciduous and mixed forests, especially those with scattered clearings and dense undergrowth; overgrown pastures.
Nesting 9-12 pinkish-buff eggs, plain or spotted with dull brown, in a shallow depression lined with leaves and concealed under a bush.
Voice 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.
Range Resident from tree line in Alaska and northern Canada south to California, Wyoming, Minnesota, Missouri, and Carolinas, and in Appalachians to Georgia.
Discussion 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.