Plate 29: Ruffed Grouse

Bonasa umbellus

Nests & Eggs: Ruffed Grouse

Mistaken for partridge or pheasant, it is a bird of the woods that nests on the ground and makes a drumming sound that may give it away.

The Ruffed Grouse, our best-known game-bird, is a creature of personality. Protectively colored, he waits until he is almost trodden upon, then rises with a startling whir of wings, leaving the wayfarer thunderstruck. The female, as she incubates, is rarely seen, for she does not stir, and her back perfectly imitates her surroundings.

In the spring, the male Grouse struts and drums at chosen spots in the woodland. On a log he paces up and down, ruffs lifted, wide tail fully spread and elevated; or he stands erect, and, beating his chest rapidly with his wings, produces the drumming sound for which he is so famous. Grouse may drum at any time of the year, and sometimes at night, but they do so chiefly during the morning on spring days.

The young run nimbly soon after hatching and leave their nest at once. They develop rapidly. After a week they can fly readily though they are very small. The mother Grouse, in luring an enemy from her young, employs broken-wing tactics, dragging herself over the ground as though she were badly wounded.

In the winter, Grouse develop long lateral scales on their toes which function as snow-shoes. Their neat tracks in the snow lead from a roost under a branch to which dead leaves cling, and wander about the bushes and trees where the birds have been feeding on buds, twigs, and dried berries. Grouse are especially fond of aspen, birch, beech, and maple buds. They like wild-grape vines both for the food and the shelter which they afford. During summer, Grouse eat much insect food, as well as berries and leaves. They sometimes eat hemlock needles and leaves of mountain laurel.

An Introduction to the Birds of Pennsylvania by Sutton

  • Print out the notebooking pages provided below.
  • Read the ruffed grouse story in Bird Biographies out loud.
  • Have a younger student orally narrate what was read. He can then copy a few lines of his narration onto the notebooking pages.
  • Older students can read the text, Plate XXIX: Ruffed Grouse, and provide a written narration.
  • Sketch the bird. This encourages attention to detail, which will aid in identifying the bird later on. Another option is to use the printables provided below.
  • Sketch the nest of the bird, along with the eggs. Note where the nest is usually found.
  • Older students can include the taxonomy.
  • Learn more about the Ruffed Grouse at Cornell.
  • On one notebooking page note the facts:
    • Description.
    • Habitat.
    • Range.
    • Food.
    • Nest.
    • Eggs.
    • Call.
  • The ruffed grouse is covered in The Burgess Bird Book: CHAPTER XIX. A Maker of Thunder and a Friend in Black.

Additional Resources

30 Narration Ideas
At some point you might appreciate some variety.

The Bird Study sections of our free nature study series: Our Wonderful World:

Free Nature Studies: Our Wonderful World
Printables & Notebooking Pages

Ruffed Grouse Notebooking Pages
Free simple notebooking set.

Ruffed Grouse
Bird picture for notebook.

Strutter the Ruffed Grouse
Corresponding print from The Burgess Bird Book.

Ruffed Grouse Range Map
For notebook from Cornell.

Bird Facts Notebooking Page
One option in a more graphic organizer style that is especially nice for noting the facts and range.

Enjoy the entire series:
Nest & Eggs ~ Intro & Free eBook
Free Bird Studies: Nests & Eggs ~ Complete Series

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